“For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes On the Course of Civilization” by Charles Adams

Today being March 15th, let’s celebrate “Tax Day” for corporations in America by taking a look at a wonderful book on the impact of taxation on throughout recorded history.

Charles Adams’ book helps us understand why historical events happened and offers many lessons to us today. Some simply are facinating:

  • The Rosetta Stone’s words were literally written in stone to memorialize tax exemption for priests and were found in all temples.
  • Egyptians taxed cooking oil at 20% and scribes “made regular inspections of all kitchens to make sure wives were not using free drippings in place of the taxed oil they were required to use.”
  • Queen Elizabeth I once said, “To tax and to be loved is not given to man.” She chose to be loved by her subjects and “to accept what revenue they were willing to give her.” No oaths, no inquisitions, and no coercion. Yet when the need arose, she was given the tax money to defeat the Spanish Armada and position England to become a superpower.
  • The Spanish Empire collapsed for the same reason as Rome: farmers were taxed heavily and civil servants were tax exempt. So farmers naturally quit farming to take government jobs.

You’ll also see why the power to tax and the power to spend should not be held by the same branch of government be it the King, the Parliament, or the Congress. For instance, Queen Elizabeth had the power to spend money on the army and navy but only Parliament could authorize new taxes.

This book should be required reading for all Congressmen. Why keep making the same tax policy mistakes which have plagued countries in the past?