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Humanities and Social Sciences Colloquium - Paolo Silvestri

The Strange Case of Dr. Taxpayer and Mr. Charity

Prof. Dr. Paolo Silvestri
Legal and Political Philosophy; Philosophy of Economics
University of Torino

The Strange Case of Dr. Taxpayer and Mr. Charity
When Feb 26, 2018
from 11:15 AM to 12:45 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, seminar room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97362
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Is the welfare state an avenue for altruism or does it crowd out people’s altruistic motivation? In other words: can taxation and the redistribution of wealth through the welfare state be conceived as a modern system of circulation of the gift? But once such a gift is institutionalized, regulated and sanctioned through legal mechanisms, does it not risk being perverted or corrupted, and/or not leaving room for genuinely altruistic motives?

In this talk I will develop three arguments. 1) The way these problems are posed as well as the standard answers to them are subject to the false dilemma fallacy insofar as they remain trapped within classic oppositions such as: self-interest / altruism; exchange / gift; market / state; free and voluntary contributions / tax coercion. 2) It is possible to conceive a ‘third way’ by reflecting on the ‘strange case’ of the “percentage philanthropy mechanism”: the only fiscal mechanism through which taxpayers can freely designate a certain percentage of their income tax to an entity of the third sector. 3) This mechanism may allow us to glimpse the human foundations of a new welfare society and of a new fiscal democracy.