With Tax Day nearly upon us–and a couple months removed from a significant tax overhaul in this country–I am reminded of the fascinating book I read at the start of this year: Arnold Kling’s “Three Language of Politics”. The book describes three schools of thought that Kling believes dominates our politics and culture. Roughly, these three lens fall along the lines of conservative, progressive, and libertarian thinking.

I wrote about Kling’s thinking here and it’s definitely a short book worth checking out.

Early in the book, Kling addresses a host of popular and/or controversial political issues and attempts to explain how each of the three sociopolitical groups sees them. Here’s how he believes conservatives, progressives, and libertarians view tax reform.

Goals of tax reform
For a conservative along the civilization-barbarism axis, the main priority of tax reform should be to promote traditional values. The tax code should reward hard work, thrift, and married couples with children. Traditional families, hard work, and thrift are elements of civilization. If taxation penalizes civilized behavior and undermines civilized values, then this fosters an eventual return to barbarism.

For a progressive along the oppressor-oppressed axis, the main priority of tax reform should be to reduce inequality. The tax code should extract unwarranted wealth from the rich to provide more public services and assistance to the poor.

For a libertarian along the liberty-coercion axis, the main priority of tax reform should be to limit the size of government. Taxes ought to be minimal. The freedom to dispose of your own wealth as you wish is liberty. Taxes are obtained by coercion.

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson


  1. My 8th grade students asked the other day…
    “How do teachers get paid? Who pays them?”
    I replied “Well, it’s complicated, but mostly we are paid from a mix of government funds and taxes.”
    Then they asked “Do YOU pay taxes Mr. G?”
    “Yes, I pay taxes from my salary every month, and then every tax season I usually end up paying a little bit more.”
    They dwelled on that for a moment, and then replied “Mr. G, that is dumb that you have to pay taxes as a teacher when you barely make any money (<<<<<I did not tell them that!). That seems illegal."
    Fully in support of their beliefs but against trying to force my opinion on students, I left them with "Well, remember that in 4 years when you become voting citizens. Remember your old friend and favorite teacher, Mr. G."

    Sometimes our youth have their eyes wide open. 10/10 would want to dispose of my own wealth as I wish.


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson April 13, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Oh man! From the mouths of children!

      There comes a time when all of our attempts at intelligent overthinking results in undervaluing the things that really matter. And yes, let’s hope these kids remember the lesson that came to them as commonsense in their younger days!


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