Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Tax Canon -- Bittker '67 (Part 1)

I have now spent about an hour reading about Boris Bittker, the author of the next stop in my journey through the tax canon entitled A “Comprehensive Tax Base” as a Goal of Income Tax Reform, 80 Harv. L. Rev. 925 (1967). Professor Bittker died in 2005, and the outpouring of fond memories from members of the community of tax scholars is a testament to the massive impact that his work had on the field. (One can read a number of dedications and memories here and here.) Though tax was the primary focus of Bittker's career, he also made large contributions to constitutional law and the question of slavery reparations. Based on the glowing reviews that I have come across, I hope to one day read some of his non-tax work.

And now for what is becoming my standard admission of idiocy: it seems that if one has heard of only one tax professor, then one should have heard of Boris Bittker. I have heard of a few tax professors -- even one or two who didn't teach me tax -- but have not heard of Boris Bittker until now. It seems I am starting this study of tax law for the bottom of a well of ignorance. Ah well.

On last note about the '67 article: in his dedication to the memory of Professor Bittker, Professor John Simon says of "the quest for a 'comprehensive tax base'... Boris thought
it to be a mirage". So we can look forward to hearing all about how the idea of a comprehensive tax base is a load of nonsense.

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