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Tax Fairness and Folk Justice

Murphy Institute Director Steven Sheffrin publishes new book with Cambridge University Press

Why have Americans severely limited the estate and gift tax – ostensibly targeted at only the very wealthy – but greatly expanded the subsidies to low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit, now the single largest poverty program in the country? Why do people hate the property tax so much, yet seemingly revolt against it only during periods of economic change? Why are some groups of taxpayers more obedient to the tax authorities than others, even when they face the same enforcement regime?

Is the public simply inconsistent? Or is something more at work here?

In his new book Tax Fairness and Folk Justice, Murphy Institute Executive Director Steven Sheffrin argues that we need that we need to turn to individual psychology, and especially everyday notions of fairness, in order to understand these seemingly inconsistent attitudes. This book demonstrates how a serious consideration of ‘folk justice’ can deepen our understanding of how tax systems actually function and how they can perhaps be reformed.

Professor Sheffrin recently lectured on the themes of his book at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. To view the lecture, please click here.

Tax Fairness and Folk Justice is available hardback, paperback and ebook formats from Cambridge University Press, Amazon,, and Indie Bound.

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