Thursday, February 3, 2011

Law and Praxeological Economics Applied to Pennsylvania's Inheritance Tax

A former student of mine, Timothy Witt has written a provocative article applying Austrian economics to Pennsylvania Tax Law. Witt is a J.D. candidate at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. While at Grove City College, Witt did an independent study with me applying praxeology to legal theory. It was a fascinating study. He went on to apply some of what he learned to state tax law. His article, "Individuals and Inheritance Taxes: A Praxeological Examination of Pennsylvania's Inheritance Tax" has been published in Volume 114, Issue 3 of the Penn State Law Review. His introduction opens with the following:
Much has been written regarding the economic effects of the federal estate tax, but relatively little has been published about state inheritance taxes and their economic consequences. Additionally, what has been written has not been addressed primarily to a legal audience. The legal literature discussing the Pennsylvania inheritance tax, one of the eleven effective state inheritance or estate taxes found across the country,is no exception to this observation; beyond practice guides, few legal resources have discussed the tax, and virtually none have substantively and systematically examined its economic effects. Furthermore, Pennsylvania's inheritance tax, like those of other states that have such taxes, has never been specifically analyzed in a legal context from the unique perspective of praxeology, an economic framework rooted in the study of individual human action. This praxeological approach, with its recognition of "the market" as the aggregation of the actions and exchanges of individual persons, provides several significant and relevant insights into the nature of Pennsylvania's inheritance tax, which has taken and will likely continue to take various forms.

It is exciting to have economics in the tradition of Mises and Rothbard applied to tax law in journals lawyers, judges, and lawmakers might actually read. Congratulations Timothy!

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