Defiance in Taxation and Governance

Defiance in Taxation and Governance

Resisting and Dismissing Authority in a Democracy

Valerie Braithwaite

This innovative book presents a theory of tax defiance, integrating five years of research on people’s hopes, fears and expectations of the tax system and the authority that administers it.

Chapter 1: Defiance to Resist or Dismiss Institutional Constraint

Valerie Braithwaite

Subjects: economics and finance, public finance, politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


Dying is not difficult, yielding is impossible. Jane Grey Swisshelm, from an editorial written after a vigilante attack on her newspaper office, St Cloud, Minnesota in 1858 (Larsen 1934: 10) Defiance can be of two kinds, dismissive or resistant. An individual can experience both, moving from one to the other. This is the crux of the findings from the multivariate quantitative analyses in this book. The theory derived inductively from a number of data sets collected over five years has wide ramifications for democratic governance. Defiance is dismissive when individuals assert their freedom against an authority. A defiant posture need not be so much about the specifics of what one is against, but rather what one is for – namely one’s own liberty. Dismissive defiance often has a highly individualistic element. It can be passive, completely ignoring efforts by others to take control, or it can be active, issuing a challenge to authority and wresting back control. We engage in these behaviours when we believe that authority has no right to interfere with our freedom (Brehm and Brehm 19811). The goal in such cases is not to modify the obstacles in our way, but to take issue with those who think they have a right to put them there. Dismissive defiance is a grab for autonomy. The message to authority is: ‘You have no right to expect subservience of me.’ A different form of defiance is resistance. Resistant defiance involves standing up against an authority’s rules, or ways of administering them....

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