Multidisciplinary Research Workshop, 13 November 2013, Common Room, Badia

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workshop poster “Income Tax: a Multidisciplinary Perspective on the Politics of Representation”



 The Max Weber Fellows organize a multidisciplinary workshop titled “Income Tax: a Multidisciplinary Perspective on the Politics of Representation” to discuss how representations and analysis of income taxation are generated, disseminated and entrenched politically, eventually becoming ‘common sense’ or contested heresy. Invited speakers are Nicholas Delalande (Science Po Paris) and Michael Becher (University of Konstanz). 

The appropriate degree of income taxation has been the focus of growing political and academic debate over the last five years. In the wake of the crash of 2008, public awareness of growing income inequality has intensified pressure for higher tax rates, particularly on top earners. In contrast, discussions of economic recovery have often focused on the role lower rates may have in addressing slow economic growth. Consequences for policy have been correspondingly varied. In the UK the top income tax rate was increased significantly in the aftermath of the banking crisis, but was subsequently cut again in 2012; in France the incoming Hollande administration tried to impose a 75% top rate, but encountered strong legal and political obstacles to doing so.

 This growing public debate has coincided with a notable turn towards more practical policy questions among academic economists researching taxation.  Work by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty in particular has emphasized simple links between optimal tax rates and observable economic variables, such as the elasticity of labour supply. Their interventions have had a significant impact on the public debate, and helped to shape the platforms of major political parties through the media. Meanwhile historians such as Yanni Kotsonis, Sven Beckert and Nicolas Delalande have increasingly turned to the ways in which taxation connects the state and the citizen, how it impacts on the politics of capital accumulation by dominant classes, or the ways in which popular consent or opposition to taxation of income has been linked to questions of patriotism. In the domain of political science, the active role of the political system as a causal factor in accounting for increased US income inequality has been the focus of influential recent work by Larry Bartels, which highlighted in particular the greater responsiveness of elected representatives to the views of their more affluent constituents on economic questions.

Organizers: Charles Brendon (MWF), Michael Donnelly (MWF), Simon Jackson (JMF)