24 Oct 15

Economic historian Robin Einhorn notes that most commentators tend to focus on two questions about American tax politics: how high or low, and how progressive or regressive. Yet because the US political system is designed to emphasize geography more strongly than class-interest or political ideology, the history of federal taxation is better understood in geographical terms. Einhorn will discuss how, from this perspective, the big story is about redistribution from the South to the Northeast, through the nineteenth-century tariff, and then from the Northeast to the South, through the twentieth-century income tax. Only in retrospect is it surprising that Southerners championed the adoption of the federal income tax, which reversed the direction of sectional redistribution.