Recent news accounts have brought up the question of incoming Governor Roy Cooper’s plans for state taxes, zeroing in on his parroting of the “fair share” slogan.
Gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper railed against Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republicans for approving an income tax-cut bonanza for the wealthiest North Carolina residents and “corporate tax giveaways” while he says public education suffered.
“Raise your hand if you believe those at the top should pay their fair share,” the Democrat said in a TV commercial this year. (emphasis added)
Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Cooper has yet to indicate his intentions, other than mentioning he denies plans to roll back the state’s historic 2013 tax reforms, the notion of any objective measure of taxes as being a “fair share” is a complete illusion.
On this matter of tax fairness no one tops Murray Rothbard’s discussion in his classic Power and Market: Government and the Economy. Rothbard starts by noting that for many years people thought products had a “just price,” but even objective ethics could not “yield a quantitative measure or criterion of justice.” So “the only possible objective criterion for the just price is the [voluntary, mutually agreed-upon] market price.” Rothbard of course is talking about a market unblemished by government monopoly privilege and other interventions.
He goes on next to ask: “If the search for the just price has virtually ended in the pages of economic works, why does the quest for a ‘just tax’ continue with unabated vigor? Why do economists, severely scientific in their volumes, suddenly become ad hoc ethicists when the question of taxation is raised?
In other words, ethicists and economists for centuries grappled with the concept of a ‘fair price’ for a good or service. Finally, a consensus was reached that the only ‘fair price’ is one mutually and voluntarily agreed upon by seller and buyer.
When it comes to taxes, however, voluntary agreement is removed. Government imposes its arbitrarily chosen tax rates by threat of force. Because mutual consent is removed from the transaction, there can be no such thing as a “fair share” of taxes.
The discussion of the non-existent concept of a “fair share” of taxes should be dropped immediately and exposed for what it is: an arbitrary and artificial notion used to disguise political power grabs.