With reference to Montesquieu, Thomas Paine and Adam Smith, how can we conclude that taxpayers be exempt from the taxing on the necessities of life?I've managed to understand the history of the tax...

With reference to Montesquieu, Thomas Paine and Adam Smith, how can we conclude that taxpayers be exempt from the taxing on the necessities of life?

I've managed to understand the history of the tax systems, but I'm struggling to justify that the poor should be exempt from the taxing on the necessities of life.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Each thinker would have distinct opinions as to their objection to government taxing on the foundational necessities of life.  Through his experience in Revolutionary America, Paine would argue that taxation on such necessities as sugar and tea causes resentment amongst the people, and becomes a method by which government can exact greater control on people's lives.  Paine would feel that a government that cannot respect their citizenry is a government that needs to be removed.  He would also argue that a governing body that seeks to control in this manner is despotic, worthy of being ousted.  Smith believes that this practice should be repudiated on economic grounds.  In taxing on the basic necessities for life, Smith suggests that this actually causes more economic hardship for those who are in dire need of tax relief.  In arguing that luxuries can be taxed because of a person's choice to indulge, basic necessities should be exempt from taxation because it would cause greater economic challenges on those who are already challenged and such controls puts an unhealthy stress on the marketplace, which should be as free from intrusion as possible.  Montesquieu's position on taxation might reside in how such proposals were enacted.  Most duties on necessities are exacted through a singular legislative body, where there has been little debate, little discussion, and little discourse amongst representatives.  Taxation on basic necessities is usually done through  despot or a single ruler acting on his own accord.  This is where Montesquieu's objection would lie, as he would favor an institutional framework of government that is divided amongst different branches and where each branch can check or limit the power of another, precisely to avoid arbitrary decisions that adversely impact the lives of its citizenry.