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Taxes Versus Legal Rules as Instruments for Equity: A More Equitable View

Chris William Sanchirico
The Journal of Legal Studies
Vol. 29, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 797-820
DOI: 10.1086/468094
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/468094
Page Count: 24
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Taxes Versus Legal Rules as Instruments for Equity: A More Equitable View
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Abstract

Abstract Most law and economic analysis evaluates legal rules solely on the 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.

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