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With presidential elections coming up, plenty of American politicians have proposed plans to tax the rich, and new research shows that taxing the one percent might actually help the middle class. Of course, this idea isn’t just happening here. Canada’s brand-new Prime Minister swept the elections this week, bringing victory to the Liberal party. Back in May, before his success, Justin Trudeau spoke to a crowd of wealthy Canadians in Toronto about a new tax plan, which raises taxes on the wealthy to support a tax break for the middle class.

“I know people in your position get asked for a lot. As evidenced by the thriving and generous philanthropic culture in Canada, you step up. Your contributions to Canadian society have been appreciated. I’m asking for one more. In short, fairness for the middle class and those working hard to join it is good for all of us. It’s good for Canada”

Nancy Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School. She joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to discuss the idea of taxing the rich to give more to the middle class.

Highlights from the interview include:

What really strikes me about what he did? Two things. One, he’s asking people, not forcing them. The other thing that I really like, that I think is very very important, is that he’s calling out what we need to call out, and it’s beyond partisan lines, which is that this is good business for the country.

A lot of the people who are supporting candidates who will not lower taxes on the wealthy are struggling financially. Why do people that are the working class vote against their own self-interest?

The historian’s answer to that is one that’s been true for this country for a long time. We’ve been willing, historically, since the earliest days we might have research on this—this goes back to the late 19th century—to tolerate much higher levels of income and wealth inequality than other industrialized countries. The theory is that a lot of people believe that they might be rich some day, and they don’t want to give up their chance for the brass ring. Let them get their goodies, it’s their money, they got it through hard work… that could be my story. There’s an element of that that goes way back into the founding of the body politic. Let’s remember the founding here in Boston, ‘no taxation without representation.’ This has never been a country that’s been excited about paying taxes.

There’s a second element here, too... It’s not just the Republican congress. The reason people want a constitutional amendment—some kind of legal connection between raising taxes and how the money is spent—is because of all of the toxicity and corruption of all the money being funnelled into national political campaigns. We can’t get away from this issue, and we can’t get away from it here, either. The end run is, pray for more bipartisanship, and we’re going to have to have those kind of provisions in tax increases, the kind of provisions you’re talking about... how the money is spent. Nancy Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robeson chair of Business Administration. Her latest book is Ernest Shackleton, Exploring Leadership. To hear more from her interview, click on the audio link above.