Liberty, Globalisation, and Tax Justice

Course Description: 

The first half of the course is more theoretical, focusing on the nature of ownership and self-ownership and its implications for how the tax system ought to be arranged. We will consider questions such as the following:

  1. Are there pre-legal property rights, i.e. moral facts about ownership which obtain prior to the law?
  2. If there are pre-legal property rights, do they consist exclusively of rights over one’s own body, or can they be extended to material entities outside of the body? And if the latter, what grounds such rights?
  3. Is a libertarian conception of property rights consistent with egalitarianism?

The second half of the course will be more applied, focusing on issues of justice pertaining to globalisation and the power of transnational corporations:

  1. Is there a tension between the democratic right of nation states to decide their tax rates and the pressure multinational companies exert on nation states through the mechanism of tax competition?
  2. Is it possible to regulate global capitalism better? And if so, how?
Learning Outcomes: 

The aims of this module are twofold: first, to provide an understanding of various ethical theories and legislative proposals considered in the course, and second, to develop the knowledge and philosophical skills required to critically assess the arguments for/against each of these theories/proposals.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will gain:

  • an understanding of various ethical theories and legislative proposals considered in the course
  • the ability to deploy the philosophical techniques and argumentative strategies that can be used to discuss those problems
  • the ability to explain the strengths and weaknesses of different positions in this area of political philosophy
  • the transferable skill of formulating and evaluating arguments for and against various philosophical positions, both orally and in writing

For students taking the class for credit there will be an essay assignment of 2,000 words due at the end of the semester. Students are to formulate their own essay questions based on anything relevant to the topics covered in the module.  

Though the class grade is based on the final paper, all course requirements must be completed in a satisfactory manner in order to earn a grade for the class. Should the final essay receive a borderline mark, the student’s overall mark will be adjusted in light of the student’s in-class performance and participation.

 Grading criteria for final papers


Avoid going 10% over or under the required length. Writing clearly and succinctly within a word limit is an important philosophical skill. Grades will thus be partly determined in light of the student’s ability to stick closely to the word limit. The word count should include all references and footnotes (if any), but exclude the bibliography.


To earn a B+, the paper must clearly and concisely address the question and must be written in good academic English. Insofar as these are relevant, the paper must demonstrate a solid understanding of the arguments from readings in the course as well as in-class presentations and discussions. Important principles and concepts should be clearly explained. The views of others should, where necessary, be accurately, charitably, clearly and succinctly reconstructed, and properly cited with a bibliography. The paper must show that you have analyzed and independently organized the material yourself in response to the question, rather than simply following the organization of in-class presentations or parts of the literature.

 To earn an A-, the assignment must demonstrate all the above plus evidence of genuine progress as a result of your own independent thinking, such as your own substantive evaluation and critique of the validity and soundness of the arguments of others, or your own original positive argument. If there are any problems with the exposition or arguments in the paper, these will be minor. Any obvious objections to your argument will have been anticipated and answered.

 Papers that earn an A will demonstrate all the above virtues to the extent that they are nearly flawless in writing style, organization, exposition and soundness of arguments. While remaining entirely relevant to the question, such a paper will be relatively ambitious in scope and will demonstrate an exceptional degree of understanding and of the topic.

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