By Steve Thomas - 21/08/2008

By Steve Thomas -

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Tax Discussion Series: Governing for the Good

Governing for the Good: What does it really mean? is the first paper in a Tax Discussion Series that considers the basis for a just, fair and compassionate taxation system for New Zealand. Governing for the Good examines the link between taxation and government activity, outlining the role of government and the community in society.

Read the Paper here:
Governing for the Good: What does it really mean?

Governing for the Good explains that the proper role of government is to protect the common good from harm. Government should ensure the basic needs of a society are met, and it has a role to intervene in the community where this is necessary to protect it. However, good government is limited government, and it should not intervene unless it is clear that the other institutions and communities of society cannot respond to the threat of harm on their own. Civil society, made up of communities, families and individuals, exists prior to the government, and can provide care and compassion in a way that government cannot. Therefore Government should not absorb the functions of civil society, but rather enable the community to flourish independently of it. This means that the role of government should not expand from protecting the common good to attempting to promote a vision of the good.

This understanding of the role of government has important implications for taxation. New Zealand has high levels of taxation and government expenditure, consistent with a mode of government that attempts to promote the common good, rather than protect it. This can also be seen through tax policies that incentivise behaviour, such as KiwiSaver subsidies, and that redistribute and “churn” income, such as Working for Families.

This paper envisages the possibility of government for New Zealand that governs well, protecting the social fabric and allowing a strong and thriving civil society to play a leading role.

Read more from the Tax Discussion Series here:

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