Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date



In this essay, I review UC-Berkeley history professor Robin Einhorn's book, American Taxation, American Slavery. In this provocatively-titled book, Einhorn traces the relationship between democracy, taxation, and slavery from colonial times through the antebellum period. By re-telling some of the most familiar set piece stories of American history through the lens of slavery, Einhorn reveals how the stories that we tell ourselves over and over again about taxation and politics in America are little more than the stuff of urban legend.

In the review, I provide a brief summary of Einhorn's discussion of the relationship between slavery and colonial taxation, the creation of a national tax structure, and the adoption of uniformity clauses in state constitutions in the antebellum period. I then turn to a discussion of how Einhorn's book helps to debunk an urban legend of modern tax policy debates; namely, that critical perspectives and tax simply don't mix.