Taxpayers’ Associations, Pocketbook Politics, and the Law during the Great DepressionLinda Upham-Bornstein
During the Great Depression, the proliferation of local taxpayers’ associations was dramatic and unprecedented. The justly concerned members of these organizations examined the operations of state, city, and county governments, then pressed local officials for operational and fiscal reforms. These associations aimed to reduce the cost of state and local governments to make operations more efficient and less expensive.
“Mr. Taxpayer versus Mr. Tax Spender” presents a comprehensive overview of these grassroots taxpayers’ leagues beginning in the 1860s and shows how they evolved during their heyday in the 1930s. Linda Upham-Bornstein chronicles the ways these taxpayers associations organized as well as the tools they used—constructive economy, political efforts, tax strikes, and tax revolt through litigation—to achieve their objectives.
Taxpayer activity was a direct consequence of—and a response to—the economic crisis of the Great Depression and the expansion of the size and scope of government. “Mr. Taxpayer versus Mr. Tax Spender” connects collective tax resistance in the 1930s to the populist tradition in American politics and to other broad impulses in American political and legal history.
“Nobody else has comprehensively detailed the activities of tax protesters during the Great Depression, and Upham-Bornstein does this very effectively. This book will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that taxpayer politics are a long-standing American tradition. ‘Mr. Taxpayer versus Mr. Tax Spender’ provides useful analyses of how these movements relate to trends in law and politics, as it provides a wealth of empirical details and richness for this relatively understudied topic.”
—Lawrence Glickman, Professor of American Studies at Cornell University, and author of Free Enterprise: An American History
“In the depth of the Great Depression, middle-class property owners spontaneously organized to ‘raise hell and lower taxes.’ This extensively researched, sensibly organized, and thoughtfully argued book presents nonpartisan political activism, judicial intervention into local government, and a pivotal moment in the fiscal history of the United States. It also reaches a surprising but utterly convincing conclusion: most tax revolters sought not a smaller government but a more efficient and progressive one.”
—Daniel R. Ernst, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal History at Georgetown University Law Center, and author of Tocqueville’s Nightmare: The Administrative State Emerges in America, 1900–1940
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