When in 88 B.C. Mithridates the Great ordered the slaughter of the Romans in Asia Minor, where he was expanding his power, his people made sure to kill the tax collectors. Around a century later, Jesus Christ showed the principle of forgiveness precisely by embracing a later generation of such people. Taxes have always been a pain, and those who collect them—and indeed levy them—ready objects of loathing. In Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue, an entertaining, compelling, and well-researched book (all the more impressive because the authors, Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod, are economists and not historians), the history of this governmental vice, its failures, and its successes are all set out, reminding us that, like the poor, taxes are always with us.

Although taxation was often levied in the classical and medieval...


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