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Fr. 746

December 12, 2016

2.) Tax reform:

How would one go about justifying the promotion of tax reform in the different forums alluded to above, i.e. a.) – c.)?

a.) Between government officials, it would initially seem possible to provide practical reasons which would motivate tax reform: increasing government efficiency, streamlining regulations, creating new sources of revenue. By practical, we mean something like “not directly appealing to explicitly moral reasons”, such that tax reform meets that test at the surface level. What remains to be seen is whether those explicitly amoral reasons do not themselves draw on implicitly moral reasons. For example, streamlining regulations could proceed from a vision that these regulations are unfair to a given party; creating new sources of revenue could stem from a need to meet certain persons’ needs. In other words, these might be linked by other means to moral reasons and, hence, to moral justification. Whether political justification is amoral on this count depends on whether the practical manages to stand free of the moral.

b.) Between government officials and citizens, it seems unlikely that practical reasons like those above could carry the same weight. Perhaps this gets at the point that there is a difference between an argument having weight in itself and its having weight with a certain audience. Regardless, for government officials seeking to justify tax reform to citizens, appealing to practical concerns would likely prove ineffective in the absence of moral concerns. We might wonder what reasons citizens would have to care about streamlining regulations unless this in some way facilitates their daily lives. Similarly, what reasons would citizens have to care about creating new sources of revenue, were this not to meet certain of their needs? In both cases, officials may find it necessary to appeal to moral reasons.

Conversely, it is unclear why citizens would offer government officials practical reasons for tax reform. Insofar as officials may find it necessary to appeal to moral reasons in order to justify tax reform to citizens, so citizens may prove unable to justify the need for tax reform to tax officials without reference to moral reasons.

c.) Between citizens, much the same reasoning applies as in the last point. Supposing that there is a difference between an argument having weight in itself and its having weight with a certain audience, it seems clear that, when citizens are both the justifying party and the audience being justified to, these terms would coincide here. For citizens would appeal to moral reasons as both those reasons which carry weight with them and those most likely to carry weight with the audience.

 

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