Tax Consumers, Taxpayers, and the Cox Box




Tax Consumers, Taxpayers, and the Cox Box


6664Years ago I joked that every economist’s highest goal was to have a graph or concept named for him or her. Among the existing ones are the Keynesian Cross Graph, the Edgeworth Box, the Phillip’s Curve, the Laffer Curve, Rothbard’s Law, Buridan’s Ass, Mises’s Butler, Hume’s Specie-Flow Mechanism, Rostow’s Stages of Growth, the Ricardo Effect, Menger’s Law, the Beveridge Curve, and Hayek’s Triangles.

I came up with a way of visually depicting libertarian class analysis in the 1980s but never shared it beyond a friend or two. But now I immodestly present what I have called the Cox Box.

Libertarian class analysis is based on two classes in regard to government: the taxpayers and the tax consumers. It is important to note that libertarian class analysis predates the better known Marxist class analysis of workers and the owners of the means of production (capitalists). Marx published his class analysis in 1848, whereas the libertarian class analysis of J. B. Say and Charles Dunoyer was developed in 1810 and by James Mill in the 1820s and 1830s.

Here is how John Calhoun stated libertarian class analysis in his Disquisition on Government in 1848:

The necessary result … is to divide the community into two great classes: one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes and, of course, bear exclusively the burden of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are recipients of their proceeds through disbursements, who are, in fact, supported by the government; or in fewer words, to divide into tax-payers and tax-consumers. … The effect … is to enrich; and strengthen the one, and impoverish and weaken the other.

So, how to depict the correct libertarian class analysis? Here, I depict it as a box with income levels along the one axis and a division of taxpayers and tax consumers along the other axis wherein half of all income levels are net taxpayers and half are net tax consumers. Figure 1 represents a hypothetical economy in which net tax consumption does not vary by income level:

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