Shughart notes that the record of such punitive selective taxation has been anything but successful, hindering economic progress and failing to deliver the promised social benefits. In addition, the costs of selective taxes fall disproportionately on lower-income people, while more politically powerful interest groups benefit. At the same time, such policies are a poor way to raise funding for public services, and foster political corruption and self-serving bureaucracies accountable to no one. Indeed, policies discriminating against certain products may represent ominous trends easily extended into virtually every facet of people's lives. One can envision policies proscribing foods, sun bathing, obesity, and even books, films, and political and religious beliefs deemed "dangerous."
Part I is devoted to the political economy of selective taxation. Contributors trace the history and politics of selective excise taxes in the United States, discussing the range of products that have been subject to such taxation from the founding period to the present. Part II explains how these taxes emerge in a political marketplace with opposing pressure groups scrambling for wealth transfers in their own favor. Part III looks at taxes on specific products as well as such banning policies as Prohibition and the war on drugs. Constitutional, economic, and civil liberty issues, including civil asset forfeiture and product liability, are discussed in Part IV. With the accelerating national debate over tax reform and the downsizing of government, "Taxing Choice is "a timely and far-reaching contribution to a debate of great interest to economists, policymakers, historians, sociologists, and taxpayers in general.
The distinguished list of contributors includes James Buchanan, Charles Rowley, Dennis Mueller, Todd Sandler, Randall Holcombe, Michael Munger, Thomas Stratmann, Harold Mulherin, Lawrence Kenny, and Paul Rubin. Edited by two of the editors of the journal Public Choice and as fresh as today’s headlines, this volume positions the public choice literature in the context of current events and points its research agenda in new directions. It is a unique and indispensable collection of value to economists, political scientists, political philosophers, and public policymakers.