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Presentation by Bruno Verbeek in the Philosophy and Public Affairs Colloquium with a response by Gijs van Donselaar. Location: Faculteitskamer/Faculty Room, Oude Turfmarkt 147 (entrance at 141), Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.

Detail Summary
Date 11 September 2019
Time 16:00

The next session of the UvA Philosophy and Public Affairs colloquium will take place on Wednesday 9 September, 4-6 pm.


Bruno Verbeek (Leiden University) will present a paper entitled


Almost all contemporary states raise revenues from a variety of sources. Income, savings, wealth, gifts, estates and corporate profits, are among the sources that are taxed so as the raise the necessary funds for effective government. A large part of the revenues of contemporary states consists of a general tax on consumption. Usually, this is indirect personal taxation at a flat rate (e.g., VAT or Sales Tax schemes).
In this paper, I address the question whether such a general consumption tax is just. After discussing and rejecting some alternative arguments for consumption taxes, I argue that fairness demands that those benefitting from commercial transactions in a just state have an obligation to contribute to the cost of maintaining the legal, social and moral structure necessary to make commercial transactions possible. This means that a just state is permitted to tax consumption. If we add to this argument that in realistic conditions, the state is the only institution that could assume responsibility for the production and maintenance of such a structure, it follows that a just state has a pro tanto duty to tax consumption.

Dr Bruno Verbeek teaches Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Leiden Institute for Philosophy. His research concerns the relations between (meta)ethics, political theory, action theory and moral psychology with decision and game theory. He has published on game-theoretic analyses of norms, as well as on rational choice accounts of commitment. Currently he is working on a project that aims to analyze notions of authority in politics and law, as well as in action theory and epistemology. In addition he has a strong, but largely latent interest in matters of economic distributive justice, especially taxation.

Dr Gijs van Donselaar teaches Ethics and Political Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. His main area of interest is social justice. In 2009 Oxford University Press pupblished his book The Right to Exploit: Parasitism, Scarcity, Basic Income.