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What Can Adam Smith Teach Us About Tax Policy?

1 min readBy: Scott Drenkard

I have a new publication up at, a project of the Cato Institute. It examines the role that Adam Smith has played in influencing the public debate on taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. policy in the last couple of centuries, and includes some critiques that Smith might have had against federal, state, and local tax systems in America today.

Other key discussions include:

  • A review of Smith’s four maxims of sound taxation
  • A deep dive on the benefit principle and ability-to-pay principle in public finance
  • How Smith thought about efficiency and deadweight loss in taxation, before those terms even existed

The full publication is available here.

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