From Seligman to Shoup: The early Columbia school of taxation and development

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    2 Scopus citations


    When Carl Sumner Shoup arrived in Japan in 1949 as part of the post–World War II American mission to reconstruct the Japanese fiscal system, he brought with him not only his experience as an academic economist and a longtime advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department, but also his deep intellectual commitment to fundamental tax reform. Improving tax systems to make them more rational, equitable, and democratic had long been part of Shoup’s vision of institutional change and comprehensive fiscal reform. From his early doctoral research on the post–World War I French sales tax, to his work on reforming the Cuban tax system, to his 1930s scholarship on American subnational sales taxes and his contributions to New Deal tax policy, Shoup maintained much more than just a passing research interest in the links between taxation and economic and political development. Throughout his career he was committed to applying economic ideas about public finance to the practical issues of improving political and administrative institutions in redeveloping and lesser-developed nation states. Shoup’s commitment to pragmatic tax reform was an integral part of his professional identity. His belief in melding theory with practice had been cultivated during his years at Columbia University, where he received his doctorate in economics in 1930, and where he was a member of the faculty throughout his long and distinguished academic career. In many ways, Shoup was the culmination of a multigenerational tradition of research, scholarship, and policy guidance that can be described loosely as the Columbia school of taxation and development. This chapter seeks to unearth the intellectual history of this “school”. More specifically, this chapter traces the genealogical connection between the type of economic institutionalism that was prominent at Columbia in the early twentieth century and Shoup’s specific ideas about taxation and development.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Shoup Mission to Japan in Historical Context
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages31
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139519427
    ISBN (Print)9781107033160
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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