U.S. poet laureate Charles Simic was interviewed by Deborah Solomon for the New York Time Magazine, as reported in "In-Verse Thinking," Feb.3, 2008. When asked about the New Hampshire presidential primary and his concerns, he had the following to say.
"Greed is going to do us in--stupid, selfish greed. We have essentially squandered the wealth of this country and forgotten the whole idea of the common good."
We in law--and certainly those of us in tax--are familiar with the prevalence of "greed is good" mantras. I suppose it comes, at least in part, from the law and economics movement that teaches young lawyers that efficiency is the only suitable benchmark for evaluating legal rules. I have argued that efficiency is a weak reed on which to build a tax system, where justice surely requires considering equitable treatment of taxpayers (a justice measure that is internal to the tax system) and the resulting impact on the institutions of democracy (a justice measure that is external to the tax system). Maybe we all need to start talking more critically about the problems of a society in which the legal rules are thought to primarily take into account "rational" profit maximization.