The Most Successful Tax Reform in History

tags: World War II, Japan, taxes



Bruce Bartlett is a former Treasury deputy assistant secretary for economic policy and the author of The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform — Why We Need It and What It Will Take.

Arguably, the most successful tax reform in history is the one adopted by Japan after World War II. The nation’s remarkable economic growth during the next 40 years was largely attributable to the work of some American tax experts led by Columbia University economist Carl S. Shoup. Their 1949 report is still worth reading.

A new book, The Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform: The Shoup Mission to Japan in Historical Context (Cambridge University Press), provides a thorough account. Edited by American tax historian W. Elliot Brownlee and two Japanese economists, Eisaku Ide and Yasunori Fukagai, it examines the Japanese tax reform from both sides of the Pacific, using documentary evidence and Japanese research previously unavailable to an English-speaking audience.

It’s important to understand some of the context in which the Japanese reform took place. After World War I, the victorious powers imposed harsh reparations on Germany that were widely viewed as having paved the way for Nazism and, consequently, World War II. After that war, the Allies, except for the Soviet Union, generally wanted to avoid repeating the mistake of the First World War. Rather than punishing Germany and Japan, the Allies hoped to revive their economies as quickly as possible....




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