Front Page Titles (by Subject) 10.7.: Toward Authentic Tax Reform - The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution)
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10.7.: Toward Authentic Tax Reform - James M. Buchanan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 (The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution) 
The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 9 The Power to Tax: Analytical Foundations of a Fiscal Constitution, Foreword by Geoffrey Brennan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Foreword and coauthor note © 2000 Liberty Fund, Inc. © 1980 Cambridge University Press.
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Toward Authentic Tax Reform
Our basic purpose in this summary chapter is not to support or to reject any one or any set of the various proposals for constitutional reform that have been advanced to impose constraints on government’s fiscal power. Our whole analysis, however, may properly be interpreted as offering analytical argument in support of some appropriately designed set of limits. Our extreme Leviathan model of politics is not critical for this conclusion. This model, which we introduced to allow us to develop our analysis with some logical rigor, may be substantially modified in the direction of more “realistic” political assumptions without undermining the general conclusion in support of constitutional constraints.
To the extent that our analysis bears on “tax reform” at all, it does so with reference to “constitutional tax reform,” and, as noted, with particular reference to “tax limits.” We have little or no interest, here or elsewhere, in proffering our own private and personal advice to existing governments about taxes or indeed about anything else.
If we can succeed in shifting the grounds for debate in tax reform, we shall have opened the way toward the only authentic tax reform worthy of serious consideration.
Given this somewhat restrictive methodological stance, it would be inconsistent for us, at this stage, to lay down our own pet prejudices as to “ideal tax arrangements,” whether these be supported on efficiency, equity, or some other grounds. We hope to have been able to demonstrate that the individual, as potential taxpayer, placed in a hypothetical position where he is allowed to select among alternative sets of constraints on the taxing power of government, will rationally choose to exercise his option and impose some such constraints. In a broadly defined perspective, therefore, our whole analysis may be interpreted as providing positive argument in support of almost any one of the currently discussed proposals for constitutional fiscal limits. To go further than this, and to try to isolate supporting arguments for any one of the proposed set of prospects that have been suggested, would require more analysis than we have been able to muster. We do not want to make the mistake of suggesting that a unique constitutional solution will necessarily emerge even from the most idealized modeling of constitutional choice.
As we noted in the Preface as well as earlier in this chapter, this book is both badly and excellently timed. Perhaps a two- or three-year advance date in writing and in publication might have allowed some of our analysis to inform more fully some of the current discussions of constitutional change. But a ten-year advance would have surely meant a neglect of our whole argument. The “taxpayer revolution” of the 1970s has been politically exciting regardless of the final tally in terms of ultimate change in the political framework of society. And this political event has offered intellectual challenges that too few of our fellow economists and other scholars have chosen to accept. To the extent that our analysis in this book prompts others, regardless of ideological persuasion, to take up the gauntlet, tax-reform discussion will have moved beyond the realm of partisan advocacy toward authenticity in the desired debate over constitutional alternatives within which we should allow government’s fiscal powers to be exercised.