Tax and Social Justice

Course Requirement Areas: 
Axiology and Practical Philosophy
Course Description: 

The first half of the course is more theoretical, focusing on the nature of ownership and self-ownership and its implications for how the tax system ought to be arranged. We will consider questions such as the following:

  1. Are there pre-legal property rights, i.e. moral facts about ownership which obtain prior to the law?
  2. If there are pre-legal property rights, do they consist only of right’s over one’s own body, or can they be extended to material entities outside of the body? And if the latter, what grounds such rights?
  3. Is a libertarian conception of property rights consistent with egalitarianism?

The second half of the course is more applied, and will focus on the following issues:

  1. This ethics of global tax competition – Is a tension between the democratic right of nation states to decide their tax rates, and the pressure multinational companies exert on nation states through the mechanism of tax competition?
  2. The ethics of tax avoidance – Are any of the legal methods of lowering one’s tax bill morally impermissible?
  3. The ethics of inheritance tax – Some regard inheritance tax as pernicious on the grounds that it involves taxing income which has already been taxed, whilst other regard it as essential for ensuring equality of opportunity.


Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will gain:

  • an understanding of various ethical theories pertaining to tax and social justice.
  • the ability to deploy the philosophical techniques and argumentative strategies that can be used to discuss those problems
  • the ability to explain the strengths and weaknesses of different positions in this area of political philosophy

the transferable skill of formulating and evaluating arguments for and against various philosophical positions, both orally and in writing


For students taking the class for credit there will be an essay assignment of 2,000 words due at the end of the semester. Students are to formulate their own essay questions based on anything relevant to the topics covered in the module.  

Though the class grade is based on the final paper, all course requirements must be completed in a satisfactory manner in order to earn a grade for the class. Should the final essay receive a borderline mark, the student’s overall mark will be adjusted in light of the student’s in-class performance and participation.

File Attachments: