UNIFORMITY IN THE CONTEXT OF OTHER CONCERNS
Glenn W. Fisher
Economists are famous (or notorious) for their frequent use of the phrase ceteris paribus (other things equal) at times to exclude the effect of those things that cannot be precisely analyzed or predicted. This methodology has contributed greatly to our understanding of economic phenomena, but unfortunately leaves important interactions unanalyzed or results in recommendations that have little chance of adoption. The history of the property tax is replete with examples of well- constructed studies of the property tax or its administration that have little impact upon policy.
This chapter is offered as a complement to those that take a more orthodox approach to analyzing property tax uniformity. It is a historical, system-oriented examination of the property tax. The purpose is to warn that many considerations other than purely economic ones determine property tax policy and administrative practices.
Many analyses of the property tax take the political system as given. This chapter examines the property tax as a part of a dynamic, constantly changing political system. Traditional tax analysis enters the process only to the extent it is part of the input into the political system or part of the output of the political system that will, in turn, affect the nature of future input into the political system.
The conceptual basis for this analysis is David Easton's model of the political system. Easton defines a political system as "a set of abstractions, abstracted from the totality of social behavior, through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society" ( Easton 1965: 57). A political system exists in an environment made up of other systems. These include ecological, biological, personality, and social systems. For our purposes, the most important social system in the environment is