…from Richard Epstein:
Unfortunately, Seidman has the causation reversed. The reason why the situation today is so perilous is that Congress is not strictly bound by the Constitution, just as Seidman advocates. There are currently no constitutional constraints limiting the discretion of Congress to decide what tax burden will be placed on what groups for what reasons. In fact, the only restraint on taxation is a broken-down system of public deliberation, which results in a fruitless question to find, as Seidman puts it, “a common vocabulary to express aspirations that, at the broadest level, everyone can embrace.” Otherwise, Congress is free to dispense tax favors and impose tax burdens as though there were no tomorrow.
…The older conception of public goods has been entirely rejected by all justices on the Supreme Court regardless of their political persuasion, so we have a current legal regime that is just the one Professor Seidman craves. On taxing and spending, we have a constitutional structure that is not informed by a single action or statement of James Madison or any other founder. Instead, our structure allows Congress to debate the many vexing problems of current times unhindered by constitutional principle, passing statutes whose “wisdom or fairness” is beyond the power and the competence of the courts to judge.
We need more, not less, adherence to the Madison’s Constitution. And as he notes, strictly followed, Madison’s principles would require a flat tax. A progressive one is unconstitutional.