Fair points here, Michael. But if I may, I’d like to play devil’s advocate and offer some resistance to your argument.
“Indeed, part of the appeal of CSR activities is that you get to choose who is the beneficiary of your largess. In doing so, we have allowed private individuals to decide what are our social priorities rather than allowing society as a whole to make those decisions through the democratic process.”
I don’t know that I agree with your characterization of corporate charity. If and when a business’ social priorities don’t align with their consumers’ priorities, consumers can (usually) respond by taking their business elsewhere. Voting with a ballot may be a more efficient way of establishing a society’s priorities than voting with money, but the dynamics of the two don’t seem to me to be all that different as they both permit input on the part of ordinary citizens.
Furthermore, I am curious if there’s some sort of ethical limit to taxation, which to me has always been the most compelling point of the anti-income tax movement. A consumption tax on non-essential goods does appear more ethical on its face, at least to me, as it doesn’t require the government to confiscate a portion of your hard-earned income.