Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod’s REBELLION, RASCALS AND REVENUE: TAX FOLLIES AND WISDOM THROUGH THE AGES (Princeton University Press, 2021) is a wonderful book, which should be read by any student of taxation. To most tax policy makers and academics, tax history may seem a bit arcane, because they believe that the study of taxation and especially public finance economics is a story of progress and that we know better how to design good tax systems than our ancestors. To this attitude, Keen and Slemrod offer a decisive rejoinder: We do not necessarily understand taxation better than our predecessors, and in fact we can learn from their experience. Keen and Slemrod’s marvelous book is not an attempt to directly effectuate tax policy or to rewrite tax history. Instead, it is a very wise excursion by two highly experienced public finance economists into the past in order to both understand the present better by comparing it to what was different, and to improve the future by learning from both past wisdom and past follies.


Law and Economics | Legal History | Tax Law

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