A Meta-Analysis of Robert McGee’s Surveys on Tax Ethics

I’ve put together some remixes of ’s data-dump concerning Robert McGee’s surveys on how people perceive the ethics of tax evasion in different circumstances.

I wanted to answer four questions:

  1. Which of the surveyed groups found war tax resistance to be most (and least) ethical?
  2. Which groups found tax evasion by Jews in Nazi Germany to be most (and least) ethical?
  3. Which groups found war tax resistance to be most (and least) ethical relative to their view on the ethics of tax evasion in general?
  4. Which groups found tax evasion by Jews in Nazi Germany to be most (and least) ethical relative to their view on the ethics of tax evasion in general?

Those last two items are meant to correct for the possibility that some groups might have been numerically more or less supportive of war tax resistance or of tax evasion by persecuted Jews only because they were more or less sympathetic to tax evasion in general. For example, the 79 students from Kazakhstan thought war tax resistance was more ethical than not (3.76), but their average response to all 18 questions on the survey was right about in the middle of the range (4.14), so it’s not that they’re particularly sympathetic to war tax resistance so much as they’re particularly skeptical about tax evasion being unethical at all.

My first remixed table orders the surveys by how sympathetic they are to the ethical nature of war tax resistance based on the score they gave (1=most sympathetic, 7=least sympathetic):

Survey #NQ13 (War)Q16 (Nazi)Average
122563.34.3
181733.64.4
271873.634.94
141383.644.27
371313.674.855.06
35793.763.854.14
5904.005.25
321614.063.674.31
211964.224.72
1714.253.594.94
33314.262.244.86
281864.275.03
91344.454.504.59
426204.494.444.66
7604.535.06
38254.573.734.73
132794.63.94.7
341324.664.895.03
17414.753.934.94
251774.764.904.57
313154.794.934.78
202184.84.15.4
391684.872.795.01
101144.94.05.2
40165.003.005.44
8795.034.235.55
433005.064.875.54
231405.115.245.67
242335.194.905.62
291775.224.85.27
11425.225.155.35
61735.245.36
413195.464.76*5.38
21195.594.995.62
264405.925.215.78
192056.005.516.03
301176.025.475.83
36266.085.546.45
222326.106.00
36386.355.046.10
41076.383.125.57
163006.394.956.15
152026.415.266.12

The top three (most sympathetic to war tax resistance):

  • 256 graduate and advanced undergraduate business & economics, law, and philosophy students at Hubei University and Wuhan Industrial College
  • 173 graduate and advanced undergraduate business and economics students at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing
  • 187 graduate and advanced undergraduate business and economics students at the University of Macau

Given this, you’d think China would be a hotbed of war tax resistance. Maybe it is!

The bottom three (least sympathetic to war tax resistance):

  • 202 accounting majors at a large college in Utah
  • 300 (non-accounting) business majors at a large college in Utah
  • 107 undergraduates at a branch of Touro College in New York

The next table orders the surveys by how sympathetic they are to the idea that it is ethical for Jews to evade Nazi taxes (note that only those scores less than 4, the first ten entries in the table, consider this variety of tax evasion more ethical than not, on average):

Survey #NQ13 (War)Q16 (Nazi)Average
33314.262.244.86
391684.872.795.01
40165.003.005.44
41076.383.125.57
1714.253.594.94
321614.063.674.31
38254.573.734.73
35793.763.854.14
132794.63.94.7
17414.753.934.94
101144.94.05.2
202184.84.15.4
8795.034.235.55
426204.494.444.66
91344.454.504.59
413195.464.76*5.38
291775.224.85.27
371313.674.855.06
433005.064.875.54
341324.664.895.03
251774.764.904.57
242335.194.905.62
313154.794.934.78
163006.394.956.15
21195.594.995.62
36386.355.046.10
11425.225.155.35
264405.925.215.78
231405.115.245.67
152026.415.266.12
301176.025.475.83
192056.005.516.03
36266.085.546.45

The top three (most sympathetic to Jewish evasion of Nazi taxes):

  1. 31 French executive MBA students
  2. 168 business & economics students at the Technical University of Kosice
  3. 16 philosophy and theology students at the University of Presov

The bottom three (least sympathetic to Jewish evasion of Nazi taxes):

  1. 26 students at an Episcopal seminary in the southern United States
  2. 205 business students in a university in Colombia
  3. 117 accounting students at a large university in Miami, Florida

The next table orders the survey by how much the sympathy for war tax resistance in particular exceeded the average sympathy for tax evasion under all of the circumstances in the questionnaire (note, though, that some questionnaires did not include all of the questions; in particular, those given in China did not include some of the human rights-related questions like the one about Jews in Nazi Germany):

Survey #NQ13 (War)AverageDelta
371313.675.06−1.39
271873.634.94−1.31
5904.005.25−1.25
181733.64.4−1.2
122563.34.3−1.0
281864.275.03−0.76
1714.254.94−0.69
141383.644.27−0.63
33314.264.86−0.60
202184.85.4−0.6
231405.115.67−0.56
7604.535.06−0.53
8795.035.55−0.52
211964.224.72−0.50
433005.065.54−0.48
40165.005.44−0.44
242335.195.62−0.43
35793.764.14−0.38
341324.665.03−0.37
36266.086.45−0.37
101144.95.2−0.3
321614.064.31−0.25
17414.754.94−0.19
426204.494.66−0.17
38254.574.73−0.16
91344.454.59−0.14
391684.875.01−0.14
11425.225.35−0.13
61735.245.36−0.12
132794.64.7−0.1
291775.225.27−0.05
21195.595.62−0.03
192056.006.03−0.03
313154.794.78+0.01
413195.465.38+0.08
222326.106.00+0.10
264405.925.78+0.14
251774.764.57+0.19
301176.025.83+0.19
163006.396.15+0.24
36386.356.10+0.25
152026.416.12+0.29
41076.385.57+0.81

The top three (most sympathetic to war tax resistance in particular, relative to the existing sympathy to tax evasion in general):

  1. 131 master’s degree accounting students at governmental universities in Iran
  2. 187 graduate and advanced undergraduate business and economics students at the University of Macau
  3. 90 advanced undergraduate business students at Hong Kong Baptist University

Iran! Who woulda thunk it? Anyone know if there is a tradition of war tax resistance in Iran? It seems, at least, that the concept has some resonance there.

The bottom three (most unsympathetic to war tax resistance in particular, relative to the existing sympathy to tax evasion in general):

  1. 107 undergraduates at a branch of Touro College in New York
  2. 202 accounting majors at a large college in Utah
  3. 638 students “at a large college in the western United States, 562 of which were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”

Now, the same trick with the Nazi question:

Survey #NQ16 (Nazi)AverageDelta
33312.244.86−2.62
41073.125.57−2.45
40163.005.44−2.44
391682.795.01−2.22
1713.594.94−1.35
101144.05.2−1.2
163004.956.15−1.20
36385.046.10−1.06
17413.934.94−1.01
38253.734.73−1.00
36265.546.45−0.91
152025.266.12−0.86
132793.94.7−0.8
242334.905.62−0.72
433004.875.54−0.67
321613.674.31−0.64
21194.995.62−0.63
413194.76*5.38−0.62
264405.215.78−0.57
192055.516.03−0.52
202184.15.4−0.5
291774.85.27−0.47
231405.245.67−0.43
301175.475.83−0.36
8794.235.55−0.32
35793.854.14−0.29
426204.444.66−0.22
371314.855.06−0.21
11425.155.35−0.20
341324.895.03−0.14
91344.504.59−0.09
313154.934.78+0.15
251774.904.57+0.33

The top three (most sympathetic to Jewish evasion of Nazi taxes relative to their sympathy for tax evasion in general):

  1. 31 French executive MBA students
  2. 107 undergraduates at a branch of Touro College in New York
  3. 16 philosophy and theology students at the University of Presov

(Note that the Touro College students were among the least relatively sympathetic to war tax resistance. Touro College “was established primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage.” This makes the sympathy for Jewish evaders of Nazi taxes easy to explain, but doesn’t explain the lack of sympathy for war tax resistance. McGee suggests that Jewish teachings about taxes, like those of Mormons, are more unequivocal than mainstream Christian teachings about the duty of paying taxes.)

The bottom three (least sympathetic to Jewish evasion of Nazi taxes relative to their sympathy for tax evasion in general):

  1. 177 business students at a university in the Dominican Republic
  2. 315 faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at La Trobe University, Victoria University, the Melbourne campus of Central Queensland University, RMIT University and the Caulfield campus of Monash University
  3. 134 graduate students and upper division undergraduates at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest

Here again are the surveys by number, along with the paper or papers in which those surveys are discussed:

  1. 71 business school graduate students and upper level undergraduates at the Georg-Simon-Ohm Fachhochschule in Nuernberg, Germany (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Germany and the United States)
  2. 119 business students at Saint Thomas University in Miami (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Germany and the United States)
  3. 638 students “at a large college in the western United States, 562 of which were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Ethics, Tax Evasion and Religion: A Survey of Opinion of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints & Ethics, Tax Evasion and Gender: Empirical Studies of Opinion in Utah and 14 Countries in the Western Hemisphere & Ethics, Tax Evasion, Gender and Age: An Empirical Study of Utah Opinion & The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Utah Opinion)
  4. 107 undergraduates at a branch of Touro College in New York (Jewish Perspectives on the Ethics of Tax Evasion)
  5. 90 advanced undergraduate business students at Hong Kong Baptist University (A Comparative Study on Perceived Ethics of Tax Evasion: Hong Kong vs. the United States & The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Accounting, Business and Economics Students in Hong Kong)
  6. 173 advanced undergraduate business students at Barry University in the United States (A Comparative Study on Perceived Ethics of Tax Evasion: Hong Kong vs. the United States)
  7. 60 business students at a university in Hong Kong (An Empirical Study of Tax Evasion Ethics in Hong Kong)
  8. 79 members of the Academy of International Business, the International Management Development Association, and the International Academy of Business Disciplines (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of International Business Academics)
  9. 134 graduate students and upper division undergraduates at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Romanian Business Students and Faculty & The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Bosnian and Romanian Opinion)
  10. 114 graduate and upper division undergraduate business and law students at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Guatemalan Opinion & Tax Evasion and Business Ethics: A Comparative Study of Guatemala and the USA)
  11. 42 business students at Seton Hall University in New Jersey (Tax Evasion and Business Ethics: A Comparative Study of Guatemala and the USA)
  12. 256 graduate and advanced undergraduate business & economics, law, and philosophy students at Hubei University and Wuhan Industrial College (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Law, Business and Philosophy Students in China)
  13. 279 economics students at the Poznan University of Economics in Poland (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Business Students in Poland)
  14. 138 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing (An Empirical Study of Tax Evasion Ethics in China)
  15. 202 accounting majors at a large college in Utah (Ethics and Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Accounting and Business Student Opinion in Utah & Opinions on the Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Utah and New Jersey & Ethics and Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Utah and Florida Opinion)
  16. 300 (non-accounting) business majors at a large college in Utah (Ethics and Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Accounting and Business Student Opinion in Utah)
  17. 41 undergraduate accounting students at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand in the elite English language business program (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Case Study of Opinion in Thailand)
  18. 173 graduate and advanced undergraduate business and economics students at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Chinese Business and Economics Students)
  19. 205 business students in a university in Colombia (Is Tax Evasion Ethical? An Empirical Study of Colombian Opinion & Tax Evasion and Ethics: A Comparative Study of the USA and Four Latin American Countries)
  20. 218 graduate and advanced undergraduate business, economics, theology, philosophy and law students at Austral University (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Law and Business Students in Argentina)
  21. 196 university students in Taiwan (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Taiwan and the USA)
  22. 232 university students in the United States (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Taiwan and the USA)
  23. 140 university students, mostly business students, in Ecuador (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Ecuador & Tax Evasion and Ethics: A Comparative Study of the USA and Four Latin American Countries)
  24. 233 university students in Puerto Rico (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: Two Empirical Studies of Puerto Rican Opinion & Tax Evasion and Ethics: A Comparative Study of the USA and Four Latin American Countries)
  25. 177 business students at a university in the Dominican Republic (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Dominican Republic Opinion & Tax Evasion and Ethics: A Comparative Study of the USA and Four Latin American Countries)
  26. 440 university students in the United States (Tax Evasion and Ethics: A Comparative Study of the USA and Four Latin American Countries)
  27. 187 graduate and advanced undergraduate business and economics students at the University of Macau (When is Tax Evasion Ethical? An Empirical Study of Macau Opinion & The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Guangzhou (Southern China) and Macau Opinion)
  28. 186 undergraduate students of Zhongshan University, China (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Guangzhou (Southern China) and Macau Opinion)
  29. 177 business students at three universities in New Jersey (Opinions on the Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Utah and New Jersey)
  30. 117 accounting students at a large university in Miami, Florida (Ethics and Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Utah and Florida Opinion)
  31. 315 faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at La Trobe University, Victoria University, the Melbourne campus of Central Queensland University, RMIT University and the Caulfield campus of Monash University (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Australian Opinion)
  32. 161 graduate students and advanced undergraduate students majoring in business (finance and accounting) and economics at Odessa Mehnikov National University and Odessa State Economics University (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Business and Economics Student Opinion in Ukraine & Tax Evasion in Ukraine: A Survey of Opinion & Ethics and Tax Evasion in Ukraine: An Empirical Study)
  33. 31 French executive MBA students (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of French EMBA Students)
  34. 132 third and fourth year undergraduate business and economics students at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Bosnian Opinion & The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Comparative Study of Bosnian and Romanian Opinion)
  35. 79 students at KIMEP, a western style university in Almaty, Kazakhstan (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of Opinion in Kazakhstan)
  36. 26 students at an Episcopal seminary in the southern United States (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Episcopal Seminarian Opinion)
  37. 131 master’s degree accounting students at governmental universities in Iran (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Case Study of Opinion in Iran)
  38. 25 executive business masters students in Mali (An Empirical Study of Attitudes Toward the Ethics of Tax Evasion in Mali)
  39. 168 business & economics students at the Technical University of Kosice (Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Slovak Opinion)
  40. 16 philosophy and theology students at the University of Presov (Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Slovak Opinion)
  41. 319 students at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, the majority of whom were Hispanic (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Hispanic Opinion) * For question 16, this survey used “Tax evasion would be ethical if I were a victim of an oppressive regime or dictatorship similar to that in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany.”
  42. 620 accounting, business and economics and law students in New Zealand (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: An Empirical Study of New Zealand Opinion)
  43. 300 faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at Tallinn University of Technology (The Ethics of Tax Evasion: A Survey of Estonian Opinion)

In the fourth section of the second book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle distinguishes acting virtuously from merely doing virtuous acts.

He says that it’s not enough to just behave virtuously by imitation or by following a rulebook, you also have to incubate a particular mental state:

  1. You must know what you’re doing.
  2. You must choose your acts deliberately.
  3. You must be acting based on “a firm and unchangeable character” (other translations include: “fixedness and stablity”, “a fixed and unchangeable principle”, “the expression of a formed and stable character”, “a fixed and unalterable habit of mind”, and “a settled and immutable moral state”)

Isn’t Aristotle undermining himself here? He’s trying to come up with a way of molding people into virtuous people, and to do this by training them by practice in virtuous action, but at the same time he says that in order to practice virtue you have to base your actions on a “firm and unchangeable character.” Sounds like a hard process to bootstrap.

Maybe what he’s saying is that there is an art of virtuous action, which you can practice on your way to becoming a virtuous person, and that eventually by so doing you will develop the ability to choose virtuous acts deliberately based on your newly-molded fixed and stable character.

Aristotle ends this section with a good jab at theoretical ethicists who are more concerned with elucidating a philosophy of right and wrong than in becoming virtuous through practice.

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

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