The course examines the development of the modern tax state from the late early-modern period to the economic crisis of the 2000s. Taxation, far from being a neutral or technical matter, is highly political and has to deal with the social contract on which a society is built. As Schumpeter wrote: ‘The spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare – all this and more is written in its fiscal history.’ Such a fiscal sociological approach will guide our historical analysis of taxation across Europe and North America.

The course is structured into two parts. After a general introduction to historical research on taxation, the first part of the course will focus on significant case studies concerning the development of the modern fiscal state in Europe and in Northern America between the 18th-century revolutions and the Great Recession of 2010s. Topics include: the fiscal-military state, the liberal social contract in 19th-century Britain, France and Germany, the financing of World War I, the Great Depression in the US and FDR’s new tax constitution, the spread of Keynesian tax state in Europe after World War II, the high taxing/high spending fiscal state in Sweden and Denmark, the neo-liberal turn in the 1980s in the UK and in the US and its implementation in the 1990s and 2000s, the consequences of the 2008 economic crisis on tax systems.

The second part focuses instead on broader theoretical issues, mostly from the 20th-century. Topics include taxation and inequality, tax policies and income redistribution, tax compliance and tax evasion, tax havens.

Semester: SuTerm 2020