Voluntary taxation: a lesson from the Ancient Greeks

I imagine a progressive tax – in other words, a tax that falls on those most able to pay; a tax that results in the rich paying – quite voluntarily – more than they are obliged, instead of trying to avoid it; a tax that’s spent according to the wishes of the person who paid it; a tax that involves little bureaucracy. We have a great deal to thank the Ancient Greeks for: to mathematics, science, drama and philosophy, add their taxation system – or rather, lack of – to the list.

The Greeks put taxation in the field of ethics: the liberty or despotism of a society could be measured by its system of taxes. We should admire them not so much for the way that they taxed, but the way that they didn’t. There was no tax on income. Taxes were not the way by which the wealth of the rich was shared with the people. Instead, this was achieved by a voluntary alternative: liturgy.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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