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Argument: Progressive taxation wrongly aims for equality of outcome

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Supporting quotations

Edwin R. A. Seligman. "Progressive taxation in theory and practice". American Economic Association. 1894 - An Equality of Misery

Equality is an idea that leads inevitably to contradictions, depending on the values of the individual who advocates it. One can begin with the theory that everyone should start with the same advantages in life: such advantages as equality before God and the law, equal opportunity for education, and a basic subsistence that will keep one from being warped or stunted during the growing period. This is an idea of equality that is firmly imbedded in the American dream; it has also been roughly attainable in American practice. Granted this equality, however, people who are clever, able, persistent, or merely persuasive must soon outdistance the rest. As a people we have accepted this, traditionally, as being eminently fair.

It does not, however, result in an equalitarian society. Does true equality consist, then, of pulling everyone who has exceptional abilities back into the pack at stated intervals? Does it entail the consistent discouragement of excellence by means of periodic cancellation or retraction of rewards? If it does, then mankind must automatically be deprived of the benefits normally ac cruing to it from the natural variation of human beings. With the fostering of a widespread “what’s the use” attitude, new inventions, new qualitative changes, new theories, ideas, and fashions, must falter; the standard of living must recede; the birth rate must drop; and the equality thus achieved will be an equality of misery.

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