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Adnane Ben.
Boston USA
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Ibn Khaldun and the Effects of Taxation
12:00:00 AM Monday Apr 21, 2003

by Mark Lovewell

Ibn Khaldun and his Influence
The historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was from a family whose ancestors had moved from Arabia first to Spain and then northwest Africa in the years following the spread of Islam throughout the southern Mediterranean. He was born in the city of Tunis, on the northern coast of Africa. While still a teenager, he lost both his parents, who were carried off in the Black Death of 1349 (which had the same catastrophic effect in the Muslim world as it did in Europe). Given his family's prosperity, he was able to complete his education before he began a professional career as a government administrator. In this role, he worked for various rulers in northern Africa, performing a multitude of tasks, including secretary, diplomat, and prime minister.

The practical knowledge Ibn Khaldun gained in his political career led him to devise what was to become a path-breaking philosophy of history, which seeks to explain the rise and fall of political dynasties based on laws of social change - including economic trends. He withdrew from public life so that he could devote himself to setting down his ideas in the Muqaddimah ('An Introduction to History') - which, in the words of historian Arnold Toynbee, is "the greatest work of its kind that has ever been created by any mind in any time or place."1

In his later years, Ibn Khaldun returned to public life with a move to Cairo. Here, in what was then the Arab world's largest and wealthiest city, he performed occasional services for the Egyptian sultan, while also working as a professor and judge. He died just as a new political power - Ottoman Turkey - was establishing its dominance throughout the Arab world in ways that his own historical theory had predicted.

The Division of Labour
According to Ibn Khaldun's view of history, dynasties begin with a generation of warriors whose bravery and vigour is gradually eroded in later generations, until the dynasty is finally swept aside. Through these endless cycles of growth and decay, the economic conditions of the dynasty's subjects rise and fall as well. In particular, periods of economic progress occur when political expansion leads to large-scale production based on the specialization of labour. His comment on this issue has a surprisingly modern flavor: ...a single individual is incapable of satisfying his needs by himself, but must cooperate with other members of society. The product of such cooperative labour will exceed by far the needs of the group. Thus, in the production of wheat, for example, we do not see each individual providing for his own needs; rather we six or ten persons cooperating: a blacksmith, a carpenter to repair tools; an ox-tender, a man to plough the soil, and another to reap the grain; and so forth for the different kinds of agricultural work, each man specializing in one operation...Thus the inhabitants of a more populous city are more prosperous than their counterparts in a less populous one.2

A few earlier writers had touched on the specialization of labour and its impact. For example, the practical-minded classical Greek writer Xenophon had observed, "...he who devotes himself to a very highly specialized line of work is bound to do it in the best possible manner."3 But no one before Ibn Khaldun had appreciated the central importance of labour specialization in determining living standards. This realization allowed him to make yet another striking insight. A dynasty's wealth, he noted, cannot be identified solely with money, since gold and silver "are only minerals and products having exchange value."4 It would take several centuries before Ibn Khaldun's realization would be fully incorporated in conventional economic thought. In the meantime, most economic writers erroneously defined wealth in terms of money rather than relating it to endowments of productive resources.

Effects of Taxation
While Ibn Khaldun deserves credit for his original treatment of labour specialization and wealth, it is his theory of taxation that has cemented his position in the history of economic thought. His emphasis was on how a society's living standards could be affected, either for better or worse, by state policies. He was especially interested in the topic of taxes, and believed that a greedy ruler might impose such a high tax rate that economic activity would be stifled and tax revenues ultimately reduced:

In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue...As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow...owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects...[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield...But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes...Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation.5

This argument can be summarized in a graph, as illustrated by the hypothetical example in Figure A, where a state's average tax rate and total tax revenue are portrayed on the horizontal and vertical axes respectively. If we start with a tax rate of zero (point a), total tax revenue is also zero. At first, successive increases in the tax rate also raise tax revenue. But after some crucial level (point b), further rate increases cause tax revenue to fall. Finally, at a 100 percent tax rate, tax revenue will have shrunk to zero (point c), since any incentive to engage in private economic activity has completely disappeared. Ibn Khaldun believed that the rightward movement along this curve was a natural part of the gradual decay of dynasties. As each generation of rulers desired to live in greater luxury, tax rates would be continually raised until the dynasty reached the point where tax revenues began to decrease. Once this happened, the dynasty's military resources would be reduced, inviting attack by outsiders or revolt by the ruler's own subjects. In Ibn Khaldun's words, "Neighboring dynasties, or groups and tribes under the control of the dynasty itself, become bold and attack it, and God permits it to suffer the destruction that He has destined for (all) His creatures."6

Figure A The Tax Rate and Tax Revenue
The Laffer Curve

As the tax rate increases from 0 percent (at point a), tax revenue initially rises. But, according to Khaldun's analysis, after some point (such as b in the graph), further increases in the tax rate cause a reduction in tax revenue until - at a tax rate of 100% - tax revenue theoretically falls to zero, since all incentive to engage in money-making economic activity has ended.

Contemporary Relevance
Ibn Khaldun's view of taxation offers a useful example of how an economic concept can be reapplied in an entirely different setting. As insightful as this view undoubtedly was for the times he lived in, it might not seem to be applicable to the modern age of democratic governments. After all, no elected government would ever raise tax rates beyond the point where tax revenues would fall. Or would they? In fact, this question was part of a recent controversy in economics, which had important practical ramifications. During the 1970s, a group of economists developed a theory known as supply-side economics, which concentrates on the ways in which government actions can affect incentives for private citizens to work, save, and invest. Part of this new approach was the curve shown in Figure A, a graph that has become known as the Laffer curve after the American economist, Arthur Laffer, who first drew it.

Supply-side economists contended that tax rates in the US had expanded beyond point b in Figure A, so that a reduction in tax rates would increase tax revenues. This argument was put to the test in the early 1980s when the president at the time (Ronald Reagan) initiated a 25 percent cut in personal income tax rates. The results of this policy did not meet optimistic supply-side projections. Instead, as predicted by most mainstream economists who were suspicious of these claims, tax revenues fell in real terms, causing large shortfalls between government expenditures and revenues during most the 1980s, during which time gross federal US debt almost tripled.

The argument that the Reagan tax cuts would lead to higher tax revenues is now widely seen as an expensive mistake. But the modern version of Ibn Khaldun's theory is far from fully discredited. All economists recognize its potential validity, with empirical studies suggesting that tax revenues and tax rates begin to move inversely in the range of a 70 percent tax rate.7 Also, recent debates over tax rates have brought a greater awareness of how public policy can affect private economic incentives. In a world where national borders are becoming less important), governments must keep tax rates relatively low or face the loss of investment, jobs, and tax revenues to other countries. Ibn Khaldun's original insight - made over 600 years ago - therefore continues to act as an important constraint on governments, in a world far different than his own.

1. Quoted in Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History (London: John Murray, 1950), p. ix
2. Quoted in ibid, pp. 92-93.
3. Cyropaedia (London: Heinemann, 1914), vol 2, viii, ii:5, p. 333; cited in M. I. Finley, "Aristotle and Economic Analysis" in Studies in Ancient Society, ed. M. I. Finley (London: Routledge, 1974), p. 27.
4. The Muquaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal (New York: Pantheon, 1958), vol. 2, p. 244.
5. Quoted in Issawi, op. cit., pp. 87-88.
6. Rosenthal, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 341.
7. Charles E. Stuart, "Swedish Tax Rates, Labor Supply, and Tax Revenues," in Journal of Political Economy, vol. 89 (5), October 1981, p. 1020.

The content of this page —graphics, text and other elements—is © Copyright 2007 prospective author, and Raioo, Inc., only when stated otherwise, and may not be reprinted or retransmitted in whole or in part without the expressed written consent of the publisher.

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10:47 pm    February 24, 2008
Lavoro dei hanno [URL=] foto senza de tatuajes [/URL] quale caso, italia services peru web.

4:31 pm    February 9, 2008
Ed parte [URL=] los andes due diario [/URL] oggi dalla venta compra vivienda dice.

3:32 pm    April 25, 2003

Adnane Ben. message
Having said that, and peeking at the information systems industry in Morocco, could we say that Morocco's initiatives of techno park in Casa gives an impression that the government IS starting to help ? I do not know the details of teh techno park, what kind of playground it provides, benefits, how it's managed, and so on, but I think it's a good initiative.


3:26 pm    April 25, 2003

Adnane Ben. message
Antr you've just brought the discussion back to one of Ibn Khaldun's points in the above article, and those who read the article could be able to spot your point.

Basically, and inspired by Ibn Khaldun thoughts, I believe that the wealth of a nation is not quiet measured, for the long term, by its money and minerals, but rather by the qualities, natural gifts and enthousiasm of its peoples. A good ruler or government should service these peoples, lay out a safe, secure playground where they can becomes players, and more than that, protect that playground. Look at the USA, how it protects America's jobs, how it tried its best to avoid otehr countries' products to become the dominant so that it encourages domestic growth of little, middle and large businesses.


9:42 am    April 25, 2003
Al maghribi
Je suis d'accord avec toi Missiou Antr

4:51 am    April 25, 2003

Antr McShaddad (Yahia.L) message
Toute les grandes corporations utilisent les resources intellectuel du pays host, que ce soit dans le domaines du devellopement ou creation de produits nouveau.
les resultats sont directement envoye au system nerveu central
de la companie (quartier general)
ou elle recoivent "tabe3 dima tit"
Tant que le "tier mondistes" ne possedent pas entierement
l'usine, il resteront toujours un numero xx au service au
cervice du Big boss.
Les vrais PROFIT resident dans les idees originales, le produit
n'est que le "resulat" qui peux etre manifacture' n'importe ou...
Le tier monde (70% de la planete) est une vrai forteresse de potenciels non decouverts dans des domaines diverts, le problem est qu'il nya pas d' infrastructure locale pour extraire le jus du fruit...alors, l'orange se vents au enchere dans d'autres souk...


1:57 am    April 25, 2003
al maghribi
jst look at "moroccan of the month" in & u'll see where r our "brains" . cette page ns montre o? sot nos "cerveaux" ; sens vrai du terme; car nous sommes (les arbes) comme un corps sans cerveau....

7:46 pm    April 24, 2003
Al maghribi
Je suis tout a fait d'accord avec vous Ms tought et adnane. Mon but n'est pas de critiquer ton initiative (adnane). Elle est louable.
IL est vrai que meme a notre epoque, il y a de grands hommes qui viennent de nos pays, et qui travaillent sur dans des domaines de haute technicite et de haute technologie. Mais je pose la questio. Qui profite de leurs decouvertes? Franchement, esty ce que vous pensez que le quotidien du marocain lambda s'est ameliore du fait des travaux de ce chimiste egyptien? Je vais repondre a votre place. Non. Ceux qui en profite ceux sont les americains qui achetent les cerveaux avec leur argent. Ceux la meme qui vont bombarder nos freres en Iraq.

Je vous rappelle que le but ultime de la science est d'ameliorer la vie de l'homme. Et si nos scientifique n'ameliorent pas le notre, alors leurs travaux n'aurons pas servi a grand chose.

Il faut tout faire pour garder nos cerveaux dans nos pays, leur fournir un cadre et des moyens propices a la recherche et a la production intellectuelle. Je suis degoute quand j'entend qu'il y a des marocains, des egyptiens ,des libanais a la NASA. C'est dans leus pays respectifs qu'ils devraient etre et non dans les laboratoires de ceux qui tuent leurs freres.

J'espere que vous comprendrez le fond de ma pensee meme si je m'exprime en fran?ais. Et pour finir je citerai une aya que j'aime beaucoup:
bismi allahi arra7mani arrahim inna allaha la youghayyirou ma bi 9awmin 7atta youghayyirou ma bi anfousihim . Sada9a allahou al 3adim


10:20 am    April 24, 2003
to add to what u both have said, i want to mention that there are actually scholar of ibn khaldoun scale today that are arabs and msulims!!! the winner of price nobel in chemistry in 1999 is actually egytian who did most of his study years in egypt. and got a phd in the US. so ahmed zawel is a person from the arb world a muslim, an arab who created the most powerful camera in science. i urge u guys to do ure homework on this great person. We can achieve.

9:05 am    April 24, 2003

Adnane Ben. message

Why all the pessimisme ? Everywhere you go there are people who strive to learn and acquire knowledge, from art, to economics, to fixing bikes, to painting houses, to medicine, to engineering. Everywhere you go you will also find people who prefer to take it easy on themselves and don't challege themselves beyond the urge to complain without doing something about it. You find all of these people in the third world as well as in America, Europe etc.

My motive behind celebrating Muslim scholars is purely 1) to explore their thoughts 2) to develop a sense of heritage pride that doesn't stop at just being proud, but exceeds that to encourage people, readers of raioo and others, to set high standards for themselves.. to say, I can do it too.

Also remember that there were not 1001 Ibn Khaldun living in the same time. Muslim scholars who were celevrated and achieved high honors, the ones we know of it today, existed in different times mostly, once in many years one would pop up. So try not to make it look like the Muslims or Moroccans are nothing but a piece of passive people. Anyone can learn, what they need is help and opportunity, not pessimism.


7:08 am    April 24, 2003
ya9oulou annadim:
Laysa al fata man ya9oulou kana abi
Walakinna lfata man yaa9oulou ha anada

C'est toujours bien d'evoquer les grandes figures de notre civilisation arabomusulmane, ceux qui ont fait avancer la science, le droit, l'economie...

Mais nous, qu'avons nous fait ? avons nous suivi l'exemple de nos ancetres ?
La oumma n'est plus productrice d'hommes de science et de savoir, elle ne produit plus que des consommateurs qui ne reflechissent qu'avec leur ventre. Nous sommes indignes devant notre histoire.


4:49 am    April 24, 2003
une vrai l?gende ce "ibn khaldun". en tt cas on est fi?re d'?tre des arabes qd on evoque de tels personnages.

9:19 am    April 23, 2003
atbir oumlil
je ne comprend pas couremment l'anglais tant pis pour moi
sinon je vous f?licite pour cet interet aux p?rsonnalit?s arabes.
votre site lui manque une chose pour devenir parfait
la langue arabe , on doit apprendre a lire et tchatter en arabe... soyez les pr?curseurs :-)en tout cas bonne continuation

7:22 am    April 23, 2003
Romney and Bush should read his muqadima and benefit from it!



6:55 am    April 23, 2003
howwa hadak
A great Man

Adnane Ben.'s notes (341)
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How come Morocco is silent to Dalfour, Sudan?..
Barreling Towards an Iraqi Civil War..
Pomme and Kelly ..
Intelligent Design and Evolution in not so American lands..
The Prophets animated by Steve Whitehouse..
More with Claudio Bravo..
Muslim Texans..
Hajj Stampede Gone Ugly!..
Self-portraits 001-002..
Why Faith?..
Online 7awli Souk!..
2006 !..
Derbouka Bled Attack..
Adopted HIV kids from Romania..
Operation Mapping Raioo Love!..
They burnt themselves.. Come'on!..
My Winamp Skin: The New Beetle..
The Forbidden Zone film that electrified me!..
Cousins skyblogging..
Chilean artist in Morocco..
Moroccan Blue tops colors!..
Osama in FAMILY GUY..
Baraka Art..
Itsy Bitsy knowledge..
The most misunderstood [and growing..] world religion, Islam..
Moroccan Christians..
Polygamy in USA..
Architecturing to joy!..
This Moorish cult in America..
The Magnificient King Vulture..
Al-Rashid and the Fart..
On the subject of Evil Eye..
Anecdote on Life and 3ibada..
Anecdote on Giving in Time of Need..
T-shirt design: L'Amoureux!..
Craig Thompson art..
The Real Origin of Smileys :)..
T-shirt design: Happy Sailor!..
T-shirt design: threadless in Kufi..
T-shirt design: Magic e-lamp..
My August '05 T-shirt Designs ..
Your Living Space..
The Raioo Story: 2. in the garden..
The Raioo Story: 1. intro..
Arabic Beat and Instrument Music Wanted!..
RA?NA RAI Legacy..
Algerian Chaabi..
Nour L'Koufi (Gharnati)..
Hidalgo in Morocco..
Le Secret d'Elissa Rhais..
Imam Shafii. Soni N'nafssa..
Feqqas (Moroccan Biscuiti)..
Casablanca Connect..
ZEBDA! Un Groupe Genial!..
Al Moutanabbi. Idha Ghamarta..
Imam Shafii. sa'fir tajid 3iwada..
Long Distance Honey ..
The Working Wife and Husband..
The Hammam Public Bath: Do you still go there?..
Hip Hop Classic Favorites!..
Down With Love..
Lord Of The Rings..
How To create a Moroccan remix of a video clip ? ..
Why we don't eat Porc?..
Do You Play Music?..
Hidoura: Your Moroccan Natural Carpet..
Khaddouj Slam-dunking From Marrakesh To New York..

Hmida Rass Lmida à L'Avare de Molière!
Moroccan City Names
Shining ability is a gift...
Halloween SPECIAL 2007: La Mort D'une Souri!
Cheikha Rimitti: 83 Years of Life...
Why do we pray ?
short ones
ABSOLUTE RAIOO Summer 2007 Rai vol.2
Cheba Zohra & Mahadattes de Rilizane
Close Encounters of the Moroccan Kind!
Another attempt at writing. Will this language ever feel natural?
North Africa Journal
Moroccan Tattoos
From Los Angeles to Casablanca!
Amina Alaoui Lyrics
Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi
Vulgarity as revolution: Lemsakh we tsalguit
Les Oiseaux De Figuig!
ghir bessyas a moulay!
Moroccan Playing Cards Game ronda v1.0
A Call From Algeria to Help Suffering Little Boy Mounib!

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