Tax Is More Than A Four Letter Word


“Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society”, a quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes on the IRS headquarter in Washington

Ontario Budget 2014: watch my interview with Steve Paikin at The Agenda HERE

44 Responses to “Tax Is More Than A Four Letter Word”
  1. Riveting, honest, and thought-provoking interview! Well done by both Steve and Alex. Looking forward to checking out the book.

  2. Robert White says:

    You came across well on the Agenda, Alex. Now get a CBC radio interview.

    p.s/ Wynne was forced into election because few want the provincial liberals creating a provincial pension scheme. The thought of another e-health fiasco was too much for most to bear. Thanks
    to the NDP the plug has been pulled.

    cheers, Robert

    • himelfarb says:

      Thanks Robert. Not sure I agree with your political assessment but I appreciate your kind words.

      • Robert White says:

        Alex, you _never_ agree with my assessments and that is one of the traits that makes you such a wonderful academic. If you ever start to agree with my assessments I will have to rethink my perspectives just to counter that sort of convergence. Groupthink will never manifest between us
        to be sure. And I do value you as an original thinker that stands apart from most, including, myself.

        p.s. The Conference Board of Canada has a paper on their website entitled ‘We are all Keynesians Now’. I have found that Keynes was a masterful thinker and I am in full opposition to
        fellow Progressive Conservatives on their ‘tax breaks’ agenda. I have come around to your way of thinking on taxation from a Keynesian point of view. Without major macro-economic stimulus for Ontario our economy will dwindle needlessly IMHO. I;m a Progressive Conservative and it is tough attempting to convince my fellow PCs to accept taxation as you envision it being productive for all.
        I do tend to side with you on the investment side of things for the overall social net but it’s much more fun to disagree with you. Please check out that paper on the CB website. cheers, Robert

      • himelfarb says:

        I will check it out – but, my goodness, it sure seems we got awfully close to agreeing there. Thanks Robert.

  3. Robert White says:

    I ran across this whilst reading zerohedge and thought you might find it interesting, Alex. Tyler Derdan
    is one I follow quite often. I don’t know if you ever read zerohedge but it’s an interesting read IMHO.

    • himelfarb says:

      I did find it interesting though you should check out Joseph Heath, Filthy Lucre on how “state monopoly” on social insurance, e.g. medicare, keeps costs down – just check out the US

      • Robert White says:

        Thanks for the Filthy Lucre book by Heath. I was unaware of Heath and given that he is from UofT
        I’ll definately find a used copy for sure. I read some of the accolades other theorists have given Heath and he sounds like my kind of thinker. And speaking of thinkers, I just ran across another
        along the lines of what you are up to. Please check out Michael Hudson’s Blog. You need to
        grasp what was done to Latvia as a case study of what not to do in Canada. I think you will appreciate this one if you have not already found it. The Internet is a big place so I’m assuming
        that when I find an interesting tid bit I should make you aware of it given that you cannot be everywhere at once.

        p.s. My dear old dad was a graduate of UofT and I trust their professors, and you too. The first
        book you recommended to me was Darkness at Noon by Koestler and I absolutely think
        the world of Koestler now. Darkness at Noon was perhaps the best novel ever written

      • himelfarb says:

        I’m with you on Koestler and will follow up on the Michael Hudson blog. Thanks for the link, Robert.

  4. Marc Desjardins says:

    Reading the book with great interest and a lot of agreement on the lack of visions and the awefull trend of Canadians’ growing individualism.

    Do not get me wrong in my following comments, we need more taxes (revenus for our public programs and services) but also a better taxing process so some fairness appears at the individual level and Canadians jump into the change. Modern technologies (computers) allow better revenus and gains evaluations, the CRA lazyness needs to stop as well as its forgiving policies for cheaters/avoiders.

    Two comments come to my mind:

    1- Capital gains (and alike): Fairness would be to not tax inflation. Long term property investments (half century) are poorly protected by the 50% rule and we end up taxing the inflation.

    With modern technology and Canada Central Bank’s data, inflation is wellknown on a yearly basic and a capital gain should be calculated as the sale value less the value of the asset/good in current dollar. Such approach would get the support of the vast majority of businesses and individuals and moves us away from the lazy 50% calculation the government uses. We need to find an approach that will be fair so the opposition, speculators and other free lunchers that want 50% for no reason, will look for what they are: dishonnest. It can be contagious to the South border.

    2- With the unstable labor market, individuals should be taxed on their average income (three last years) like we taxe the corporation. It is unfair to tax someone one year and ignore his/her jobless previous year.

    • himelfarb says:

      Thanks Marc for your comments – I agree that we need to take into account inflation re capital taxes and should also address the increasing number of precarious jobs and volatile incomes. In fact I think we need a real tax overhaul and would welcome a royal commission that took a comprehensive view.

      • Marc Desjardins says:

        I just finised my reading, I really enjoyed it. I had to translate on the fly so I probably didn’t grab the subtilities. I would like to add this comment.

        The Carbone tax concept is urging, the climat change is alarming and the clock is ticking but other clocks are ticking too, we simply don’t monitor them as well. In fact it is the whole concept of consumption-based society/economy that is unsustainable (or in a few generations, we are going to kill eachother for resources).

        We need to figure out how we can move into a re-economy (repair, recycle and start building so it can be repair and last). Taxing pollution (and short lived imported products) seems to me a broader concept that is more likely to help us deal with our resources challenge and the overall environment. I know, this is would be even more challenging to implement but I wanted to share this view.

        If you tell someone you want to tax pollution, they are likely to face a major challenge to say no and still look like leaders. There’re plenty of jobs in cleaning to do or the research needed to stay clean. Why not work to stay clean instead of produce junk. 🙂

  5. anonymous says:

    It is a sad thing that censorship only exists in the realm of bullies and cowards.

    • Robert White says:

      If you are implying that Professor Himelfarb engages in censorship, you are 100 per cent incorrect.
      Anonymity is a form of censorship IMHO.

      Pot, kettle, black, Anonymous!

      p.s. I’m running for Mayor of Ottawa, Alex. Any advice, reading material, et cetera?

      cheers, Robert

      • himelfarb says:

        Hi Robert. Thanks and cool that you have stepped forward. Have you read the recent U of T study on Toronto spending and revenue?

      • Robert White says:

        I have not read that material, Alex. What’s the reference?

        p.s. my platform is on And I’m up against Mayor Watson [Liberal],
        yippie! ;-)’

      • himelfarb says:

        Well I wish you nothing but the best and you have my respect for stepping up – I will think about more relevant material over the next couple of daysv

      • Robert White says:

        Alex, the Fraser Institute just released a study on government debt/deficit and taxation with a breakdown for the Federal/Provincial/Municipal Governments across CANADA and things do not look good for the Provincial Liberal Party on fiscal spending/debt/deficit. I’m going to base my fiscal
        prudence on this Fraser Institute study: The cost of Government Debt in Canada by Charles Lammam and Sean Speer Aug/18/2014



        Please take a look at _Taxes versus the Necessities of Life: Th
        e Canadian Consumer Tax Index by Charles Lammam and Milagros Palacios 2014

        The Provincial Wynne Government cannot maintain consensus on Light Rail Transit expenditures
        throughout the GTA and Ottawa. My position for the fiscal tack we must take in Ottawa is to cancel the LRT Phase II plans of the Provincial Wynne Government and incumbent Mayor Jim Watson.
        Moreover, I’m showing you this Fraser Institute study because the entire Progressive Conservative base is going to jump on this particular study as empirical proof that the Provincial Wynne Government is less than pragmatic towards reducing overall debt or deficit spending. Toronto will likely go ahead with all that LRT borrowing but the Ottawa tab is roughing out to be over $3.0 billion for LRT Phase II and we can’t afford this neo-Liberal largesse anymore IMHO. Let me know what you think when you have spare time.


      • himelfarb says:

        It’s a terrible study. It adds all taxes and fees, including corporate taxes, and falsely attributes these to families; it uses mean instead of median; and chooses a baseline date – 1961 – before we had Medicare, Canada Pension Plan, Guaranteed a Income Supplement and before the huge expansion of public education. There -are a number of additional problems. A number of articles in English and French have documented the article’s absurdities. I will add the links tomorrow.

      • himelfarb says:

        I might add that Ontario has the lowest per capita spending of all the provinces.

      • Robert White says:

        I was reading Z/H this week and found an interesting tid bit you might appreciate, Alex.
        Our local director of the business school was unaware of this particular problem until I sent him this article. I am sending it over to you for the same reason. And this is definitely something we all need to know.

      • Marc Desjardins says:

        I agree that our cities go thru very fast transformations which involve major investments. It is surprising how much we have to spend to just keep assets in good shape. I think we need the wisest public investments possible but not less.

        The Private sector investment is about as unnoticeable (and short time oriented) as it can get, the economy is going to stall if we rely on them only. Sad to say but that’s what observers observe.

  6. anonymous says:

    Get it yet?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: