Taxes versus Legal Rules as Instruments for Equity: A More Equitable View
Most law and economic analysis evaluates legal rules solely on basis of the efficiency criterion, the justification being that distributive goals are best accomplished through the tax code. Within the same framework used to formalize this justification, this paper shows that (1) even in the presence of an optimally redistributive tax, any concern for "equity" dictates that legal rules should deviate from efficient standards in a manner that redistributes toward the less well-off: (2) any showing that differences in taxable attributes such as income or wealth are the dominant components of overall inequality would go only to the direction of the proper equity adjustment to legal rules, not to the fact that some adjustment should be made; and (3) the role of equity adjustments to legal rules is not limited to correcting inequalities arising within the legal system but extends to correcting inequalities arising in other areas of the economy. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago.
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