Cover image for For good and evil : the impact of taxes on the course of civilization
For good and evil : the impact of taxes on the course of civilization
Adams, Charles, 1930-
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Madison Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 541 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HJ2250 .A323 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"The very word taxes sends shivers up spines. Yet very few realize the tremendous impact that taxation has had on civilization. Charles Adams changes that in this newly revised and enlarged edition of his fascinating history. Taxation, says Adams, has been a catalyst of history, a powerful influence on and sometimes the direct cause of many of the famous events that have marched across the world's stage as empires collided and battled for the right to tax the loser. For Good and Evil is the first book to examine how taxation has been a key factor in world events. Like the Rosetta Stone - itself a tax document - the book sheds fresh light onto much of history."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Author Notes

Known as "the tax writer," Charles Adams entered the field of international taxation after ten years in private legal practice and became a certified specialist in taxation law. His writings have been published in magazines, newspapers, and periodicals with lead stories featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Adams is also an adjunct scholar at both the Ludwig von Mises Institute at Auburn University and the Cato Institute and a visiting lecturer on U.S. tax history at the National Archives, George Mason University, University of Rochester, University of Toronto, and New York University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A little more than a decade ago, Adams provided us with what surely is the only "coffee-table" book devoted to the topic of taxes. Fight, Flight, and Fraud (1982) was a popular history of taxation filled with illustrations of stone carvings, woodblock prints, tapestries, drawings, and other works of art that demonstrated the pervasiveness of taxes throughout history. Drawing on much of the same material, this new book has plenty of anecdotes, facts, history, and legend. For Good and Evil is a more serious but still entertaining examination of how government has used taxes to effect change, start wars, or control its people. Starting with the ancient Egyptians and going all the way to Gorbachev and perestroika, Adams shows what happens to governments that tax too much, and he offers proposals for modern-day tax reform. This book is well documented and contains a useful selected bibliography. ~--David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

This sweeping anecdotal survey of taxes through the ages aims to support the author's libertarian attacks on the current U.S. tax system and his call for a flat tax of 10% to replace the current income tax system. Tax attorney Adams ( Fight, Flight, Fraud: The Story of Taxation ) considers taxation a vital force in molding history; his discussions of civilizations ranging from that of ancient Greece to the French ancien regime are sometimes intriguing. For example, he suggests that the offer of tax immunity, rather than religious ideology, may have fueled the spread of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries. But Adams does not engage other historians to argue his ideas, and he can be inaccurate with facts--forgetting Hugo Black, he writes that by the time of Nixon's presidency, the Supreme Court ``had not had a Southerner for a hundred years.'' Some of his proposed reforms seem worthy--establish a crime for tax extortion, decriminalize the tax law--but others are dubious, such as the suggestion that members of Congress and federal judges be ``immune'' from the IRS. Moreover, his argument that low taxes were crucial to the ``miracle economies'' of Asia is simplistic; still more glaring is his failure to assess the impact of the Reagan administration's tax policies. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Adams, a tax attorney, presents the history of taxation from ancient times to the present. He studies tax law and collection procedures in ancient Egypt, Rome, Israel, Asia, Europe, and the United States, describing how taxation played a pivotal role in such earth-shattering events as the fall of Rome, the signing of the Magna Carta, and the American Revolution. The author analyzes lessons learned through study of the past and recommends measures for possible tax reform. The selected bibliography provides an excellent guide to further research. This important, timely study is highly recommended for business and history collections.-- Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Alvin Rabushka
Forewordp. xiii
Preface to Revised Editionp. xvii
Introductionp. xxi
Part I Taxes: What They Are and Where They Beganp. 1
1. Ancient Egypt: The Ubiquitous Scribesp. 5
2. The Rosetta Stone Speaks--and Tells a Tale of Taxesp. 17
3. The Age of Terror-Taxation--and the Indomitable Tax Rebels of Ancient Israelp. 25
4. Israel's Final Hour: From Hanukkah's Glory to Goliath's Triumphp. 35
5. China: The Mandate of Heavenp. 45
6. The Ingenious Greek: Tyranny and Taxesp. 53
7. The Ingenious Greek: Public Revenue without Bureaucracyp. 65
Part II The Kaleidoscopic Romansp. 75
8. The Early Republic: The Citizens' War-Tax Erap. 79
9. The Publicani Drive the Republic to Ruinp. 87
10. Augustus: Master Tax Strategistp. 97
11. Diocletian's New Orderp. 111
12. Rome Falls: Was It Tax Evasion?p. 119
Part III The Middle Agesp. 129
13. Islam: Death or Taxes for the Infidelp. 131
14. Medieval Taxation: When Taxpayers Had God on Their Slidep. 143
15. The Jews: On the Road to the Final Solutionp. 149
16. Medieval England: How Englishmen Purchased Liberty with Taxesp. 159
Part IV Russia, Switzerland, Spain, and Germanyp. 167
17. Russia: The Tax Road to Serfdom and the Sovietsp. 169
18. The Swiss: From William Tell to No-tellp. 183
19. The Collapse of the Hercules of Europep. 191
20. How Cortes and Pizarro Found that Taxes Were the Chink in the Armor of the Aztec and Inca Rulersp. 203
21. Taxes Forge Modern Germanyp. 209
Part V The Ancien Regimep. 217
22. The Devil's Tax Systemp. 221
23. Many Revolts--One Revolutionp. 229
Part VI After Magna Cartap. 239
24. Why Queen Elizabeth I Was Called "Good Queen Bess"p. 243
25. Taxes Caused the British Civil Warp. 251
26. Parliament Searches for a Better Taxp. 257
27. The Decline of the Super-Dutch and the Rise of the Super-Britishp. 269
28. The Enlightenment Had the Word on Taxationp. 279
Part VII The Rocky Road of Early American Taxationp. 297
29. Tax Revolt in the Coloniesp. 301
30. The Tax Struggle for "a More Perfect Union"p. 315
31. Was It Taxes, Rather than Slavery, that Caused the Civil War?p. 329
Part VIII The Monster that Laid the Golden Eggp. 345
32. The Tax that Beat Napoleonp. 349
33. Scaffolding for Plunderp. 361
34. How a Good Tax Goes Badp. 375
35. The Artful Dodger: Evasion and Avoidancep. 395
36. Flight to the Havens: The Offshore Worldp. 407
37. The Rise and Fall of the Miracle Economiesp. 421
38. What Constitutions Are Supposed to Dop. 437
39. Learning from the Pastp. 447
40. Taming the Monsterp. 457
41. Half-Slave and Half-Freep. 475
Epilogue: The Foursquarep. 481
Notesp. 485
Selected Bibliographyp. 509
Illustration Creditsp. 521
Indexp. 523
About the Authorp. 541