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Too tall!
December 15, 2007 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Moreover, based on the empirical distribution of height and wages, the optimal height tax is substantial: a tall person earning $50,000 should pay about $4,500 more in taxes (pdf) than a short person earning the same income. Draw what inferences you will.
posted by Pants! (41 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
It pains me to say this, but perhaps Randy Newman was right.
posted by stavrogin at 8:01 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, with this proposed tax break, we can now assume that short people do have a reason to live?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 PM on December 15, 2007


But I had the slamming fuckin link, brother! Live performance from '78!!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:04 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


*Puts a hole through the baseboard*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:06 PM on December 15, 2007


wait until the i r s goes around with rulers pulling men's pants down
posted by pyramid termite at 8:08 PM on December 15, 2007


6'-4". Underpaid. Opposed.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2007


Right, it's a silly application of a theory designed to discredit the theory.
posted by delmoi at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2007


I hate it when pseudo-smart people find seriously bullshit reasons to rationalize getting rid of taxation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:13 PM on December 15, 2007


Of course it is, delmoi. Either that, or you're 7'6.
posted by Pants! at 8:15 PM on December 15, 2007


I hate it when pseudo-smart people find seriously bullshit reasons to rationalize getting rid of taxation.

Dear Jesus, I can't think of a sentence more wrong than this. First, Mankiw is undeniably smart. If you'd heard of him, you'd know this. Second, this has precious little to do with 'getting rid of taxation' itself: it's a critique of the Optimal Tax framework and its assumptions. Mankiw no more wants rid of taxation than a critic of some biological theory wants rid of animals.
posted by matthewr at 8:18 PM on December 15, 2007


Wow, a great example of how academic economics is in such a state of disarray.

Of course, if MBA programs are any indications, short men are compenstating by getting more education. The free market corrects itself!
posted by geoff. at 8:19 PM on December 15, 2007


At a mere 157 cm (5'2") myself, I'd say this sounds like a great idea. Especially since I have to stand on a chair to look my current boss in the eye.
posted by Quietgal at 8:22 PM on December 15, 2007


some background-
Optimal tax
Laffer Curve

I also read about an idea of abolishing taxes and the government printing money to pay for things. This would basically mean diluting the money supply and inflation acting as a kind of tax on cash. Maybe that's what Bernanke is trying to doing now.
posted by bhnyc at 8:29 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


The paper seems like much of economics—politics pretending to be science.

However, I am curious about the height premium. In the paper, Mankiw and Weinzierl, mention two possible causes: (1) “Persico, Postlewaite, and Silverman (2005) attribute the height premium to the effect of adolescent height on individuals development of characteristics later rewarded by the labor market, such as self-esteem,” and (2) “ . . . Case and Paxson (2006) argue that the evidence points to a ‘correlation with productive attributes,’ namely cognitive ability, as the explanation for the adult height premium.” Tall people are paid more because they either have higher self-esteem or they are naturally smarter.

A few years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a New Yorker article about how Ivy League universities instituted certain admission policies in the early 1900s in an attempt to limit the number of Jewish students. One of the things the universities focussed on was student height: “So preoccupied was Yale with the appearance of its students that the form used by alumni interviewers actually had a physical characteristics checklist through 1965. Each year, Yale carefully measured the height of entering freshmen, noting with pride the proportion of the class at six feet or more.

What I’ve always wondered after reading that, is whether those admission policies resulted in the image we have today of what a “leader” is supposed to look like, and as a result people who happen to fit that image are rewarded with higher wages.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:32 PM on December 15, 2007


For example, the diminutive Frenchman Hervé Villechaize of "Fantasy Island" fame really needed a break. After being fired from the show "where he continually propositioned women", he "never got over losing his job, and for the remainder of his life practiced an often nightly ritual of drinking in a darkened room while screaming obscenities at an episode of Fantasy Island playing on his television." He shot himself in 1993.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 PM on December 15, 2007


I am opposed to a system of apart-height!
posted by SPrintF at 8:40 PM on December 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


Knocks the chair from underneath Quietgal.

Looking eye-to-eye is not half so cool as seeing it from where you are
posted by LiveLurker at 8:40 PM on December 15, 2007


As a short man myself, I must say I need no tax breaks. I've got my Hummer.
posted by localhuman at 8:43 PM on December 15, 2007


[NOT SHORTIST]
posted by loquacious at 8:52 PM on December 15, 2007


That bit wrt Yale, Jasper Friendly Bear, is really interesting.

I wonder why I have a natural initial distrust of overly tall people?

Then again, when I'm talking with shorter people I find myself slouching or leaning on a table on my elbows to bring myself to eye level. It's funny seeing me and my current supervisor (who seems also to have the same idiosyncrasy) talking about neutral stuff or when she wants something from me; it's a slouching contest and, one day, I'm sure we'll end up sitting cross-legged on the dirty concrete lab floor. Slouching.

/5'10"
posted by porpoise at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2007


Hmm. If I, as a short man, chose to marry my short girlfriend and file jointly, would it be based on the average of our heights or would she have to stand on my shoulders?
posted by rifflesby at 8:57 PM on December 15, 2007


If I understand this correctly, the logic is that ideally a person would be taxed on his/her production capacity rather than actual production which depends on both production capacity and effort.

But doesn't this make an untenable distinction between effort and (for lack of a better word) aptitude? That is, this assumes that intelligence and leadership and the like are traits that an individual has no control over, while effort is under the control of an individual, and therefore it is acceptable to punish individuals for not working at full effort, but not acceptable to punish them for being less intelligent than average.

However, it seems to me that the disinclination to work at full effort (i.e., laziness) is a trait no different from stupidity, and that it should no more be rewarded or punished than any other unchosen trait.

Maybe a tall person should be taxed more for being tall, but if a tall person only makes as much money as a short person, that means that there's a balancing factor such as laziness that would confer an equal and opposite tax break, and we're back to taxing them identically based only on their actual production.
posted by Pyry at 9:06 PM on December 15, 2007


Man, some short people have complexes.

Tax booster seats and platform shoes.

One of my friends, who is several inches over six feet, was just reminding me about how one day one of our short friends kept teasing him for being tall. Later that evening we all went to a concert, standing room up front. Poor short kid kept complaining that he couldn't see. We could see fine. ;)

Sucks to be short at a concert.

Sucks to be tall in an airplane.

Everything is relative.

Anyway, statistically tall people make more money so I guess they can afford the tax, but that probably also means that they have more political power so they are putting in a short tax, not a long tax. Ya gotta love politics.
posted by caddis at 9:24 PM on December 15, 2007


Shut up and eat your beans.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:28 PM on December 15, 2007


beans won't make you tall, just farty
posted by caddis at 9:59 PM on December 15, 2007


Yeah, I really don't actually see why I shouldn't have to pay more taxes than whatever poor short half-a-person the gene-pool accidentally shat out. I've always felt that way. They should pay less for everything. And qualify as disabled.

Haha, I'm just joking! I know it's hard to tell if someone's kidding when you can't look them in the face, but hopefully you could tell. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take up twice as much space on public transport for the same fare.
posted by hermitosis at 10:33 PM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


i just want to go on record against a tax on really goodlooking guys, i'd have to pay so much more!
posted by bruce at 10:38 PM on December 15, 2007


Higher math applies to many of the things it's used to model only as an approximation or an ideal that is unreachable in real life. Drop a feather on the moon, and math can tell you pretty well how fast it will fall. Drop it on the earth, I'm not so sure. Let's move up to a complex thing: the cellular phone. We can do math to model the signal it receives. Only thing is, we approximated the propagation characteristics of the radio wave, we approximated the characteristics of the radio noise, we approximated the amount of interference, and we approximated the characteristics of the antenna. A professor of mine once said something along the lines of "this noise model is used all the time. It's not because it's what actually happens, it's because we know how to do the math for it." "We" was not the class, it was the world. By the way, in that cell phone, the processor was designed using chip-design software that's full of fudge factors to make the transistor models it uses reflect what they actually measured in real transistors on real chips.

So we can usefully do math on a cell phone anyway, but the economy? No. Way more complex than a cellphone.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:56 PM on December 15, 2007


As a tall person, I'm for this, as it will give me something else to bitch about.
posted by tehloki at 10:56 PM on December 15, 2007


(In addition to not being able to drive small cars, and always hitting my head on things.)
posted by tehloki at 10:56 PM on December 15, 2007


The car thing is big. No sunroof for you Mr. tall.
posted by caddis at 10:58 PM on December 15, 2007


i'mall for this!
posted by es_de_bah at 10:58 PM on December 15, 2007


I'm opposed to subsidies for the short. Let them grow another foot and join the rest of us up here.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:53 AM on December 16, 2007


A professor of mine once said something along the lines of "this noise model is used all the time. It's not because it's what actually happens, it's because we know how to do the math for it."

Your professor doesn't know what he's talking about. The channel models in your cell phone's equalizer are used because they work - despite the existence of random noise which is impossible to predict.

Economic models should be simpler than modeling thermal noise, but it seems to me that all too often the economist has decided on the outcome and then tries to fit his mathematical models accordingly. Engineers - who must confront the world as it is and not as they would have it - enjoy no such luxury.
posted by three blind mice at 12:57 AM on December 16, 2007


What short people--and the author of the article--don't realize is that tallness, while it is connected to income, is not unconnected to effort. Tall people make more money because we work harder. Why do you think we're taller than you in the first place? We worked harder at growing.
posted by agentofselection at 1:15 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


So we can usefully do math on a cell phone anyway

Well, I can, because I'm short and have small fingers.

I wish I were taller.
posted by teleskiving at 3:48 AM on December 16, 2007


How can I get a job as one of these "social planners?"
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:31 AM on December 16, 2007


What does Dr. Loveless, uh... I mean, Robert Reich think of this?
posted by jpburns at 6:20 AM on December 16, 2007


Haha, I'm just joking! I know it's hard to tell if someone's kidding when you can't look them in the face, but hopefully you could tell.

I'll get a chair to reach proper height and you can repeat that, okay?
j/k
posted by ersatz at 7:55 AM on December 16, 2007


Your professor doesn't know what he's talking about. The channel models in your cell phone's equalizer are used because they work - despite the existence of random noise which is impossible to predict.

They're good enough to work, but are they exactly describing what's going on? No.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:51 AM on December 16, 2007


Better: Mankiiw's description of the difference between left and right economists:

# The right sees large deadweight losses associated with taxation and, therefore, is worried about the growth of government as a share in the economy. The left sees smaller elasticities of supply and demand and, therefore, is less worried about the distortionary effect of taxes.
# The right sees externalities as an occasional market failure that calls for government intervention, but sees this as relatively rare exception to the general rule that markets lead to efficient allocations. The left sees externalities as more pervasive.
# The right sees competition as a pervasive feature of the economy and market power as typically limited both in magnitude and duration. The left sees large corporations with substantial degrees of monopoly power that need to be checked by active antitrust policy.
# The right sees people as largely rational, doing the best the can given the constraints they face. The left sees people making systematic errors and believe that it is the government role’s to protect people from their own mistakes.
# The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst. The left sees government as the main institution that can counterbalance the effects of the all-too-powerful marketplace.
# There is one last issue that divides the right and the left—perhaps the most important one. That concerns the issue of income distribution. Is the market-based distribution of income fair or unfair, and if unfair, what should the government do about it?

posted by anotherpanacea at 1:12 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


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