Pay Your Taxes

An absorbing social history of the income tax

Social justice claims, The richer you are, the more you should pay--the income tax must function as a leveler to soften capitalism's inequities.

Thrifty, hardworking, risk-taking Virtue indignantly replies, I earned my money! Where's the justice in letting government confiscate it and redistribute it to freeloaders and bureaucracy?

It is along this old ideological fault line that the journalist Steven R. Weisman has assembled the narrative of The Great Tax Wars (Simon & Schuster; 419 pages), an absorbing history of the income tax. Weisman monitors the argument--which continues today--from the time that Abraham Lincoln first pushed through Congress an unprecedented tax...

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