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June 24, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Economists Matthew Weinzierl (HBS) and Gregory Mankiw (Harvard) make a utilitarian case for a height tax.

"Our research shows that, according to a conventional utilitarian calculus, the optimal height levy is sizeable. We calculate optimal taxes for adult white males in the US, whom we divide into three height groups – tall (above 72 inches), medium (between 70 and 72 inches), and short (below 70 inches). The optimal average tax on the tall is about 7.1% of the average tall income, while the average tax on the medium is about 3.8% of average medium income. These taxes pay for an average transfer to the short of more than 13% of average short income. Expressed in a more tangible way… [a] tall person making $50,000 should pay about $4,500 more in taxes than a short person making the same income."
posted by Kadin2048 (123 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
[Via Hacker News.]
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:17 AM on June 24, 2009


The government does not observe innate productivity. Instead, it observes income, which is a function of productivity and effort.

Mankiw is a cockknob. There I said it.
posted by @troy at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck this. How about first we have an income tax adjustable inverse to cost of living? I live in New York City and yet pay marginal taxes on each additional dollar of income above the minimum threshold that are actually higher than someone who lives in say, Oklahoma, and makes the same nominal income, their dollars stretching much farther than mine.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


FOX TO HENS : EITHER LET SOME OF US IN OR SOMETHING IS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG WITH YOUR HENHOUSE DOORS.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:22 AM on June 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


I realize this is a reductio ad absurdum argument. But I'd gladly pay a higher tax for being tall if it meant there were room for my fucking knees on the bus.
posted by Nelson at 10:22 AM on June 24, 2009 [27 favorites]


gagglezoomer you can get this benefit at anytime just by moving, no need to wait for the government.
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


First of all, gagglezoomer, I'd be surprised if you're paying higher federal taxes than your buddy in Oklahoma, but I'm ready to be proven wrong by some citations. Second of all, you're also getting a hell of a lot more services than your buddy in Oklahoma. Third of all, you're free to move away from the big city if you want a cheaper cost of living.
posted by amelioration at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


We can use the money from this program to fund big canvas bags filled with buckshot we strap to people who are particularly strong, and to pay for red rubber noses for the physically attractive.
posted by adipocere at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


As a white male standing 69 inches tall, I'm all in favor of this proposal.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:25 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a difference between taxing people on what they make vs. taxing people on what some economists models think they should make ?

Because I always thought there was, but I'm a moron.

That said, taxing people based on what they should be producing isn't the worst idea in the world - child support is calculated in just that way, for example.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2009


I can't wait to pay MORE taxes!!!
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2009


One thing is clear – if a person rejects the policy of a tax on height, he must also reject, or significantly amend, the standard utilitarian approach to optimal taxation and income redistribution.

The very definition of non sequitur.
posted by rocket88 at 10:30 AM on June 24, 2009


For the record: Although I tell people that I'm six feet tall, I'm actually 5'11" 7/8. That might be important someday.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:33 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


How about I just slack off to offset the bonus of my height? Because slouching to get under the bar is really doing a number on my back.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:33 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


you can get this benefit at anytime just by moving, no need to wait for the government


Basically, this solves every problem in our country where people are displeased with a service or law but yet another geographical location in the country doesn't offer the same problems. Just move! Don't like that there are no jobs in Detroit? Just move. Unhappy with the racist police? Just move. Wish you could buy liquor on Sunday? Just move.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, the top comment on Hacker News speaks to the tax incentives in place currently: Tax incentives around mortages, charitable contributions, and child health insurance are social signals: legislation saying 'this is what we value as a society, these are the things we want to help you with.' If you disagree with that kind of legislation, argue against it directly.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2009


I’m one of those people that supports redistributive taxation for utilitarian reasons. My argument is based on the diminishing marginal value of the dollar in offering experienced utility especially if you discount positional status purchasing which is likely to be close to a zero sum game.

There's more than one thing wrong with Mankiw’s argument, the biggest part of which is that it depends on the reader accepting a particular version of utilitarianism and a specific argument predicated on this version of utilitarianism that realistically most self identified utilitarians don’t accept. Then Mankiw in his informal description of the work advances the paper as being a more general rebuttal to redistributive taxation for utilitarian reasons at all. It isn’t.

Put simply it seems as though he’s being dishonest about who exactly he’s arguing with and trusting that the opacity of this particularly argument will allow his fairly narrow argument to be expanded in scope because of the ignorance of the average reader.

And besides, studies have show that the income effects from height are tied not to present height but to height during adolescence. So the stupid proxy he picked is an inferior stupid proxy.
posted by I Foody at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Many people, however, will not quickly embrace the idea of levying higher taxes on tall taxpayers. Indeed, when first hearing the proposal, most people either recoil from it or are amused by it.

The reason for this is not that it shows some underlying flaw in the concept of giving breaks to people who need extra help, but because people (probably correctly) see height as a relatively poor indicator of wealth earning potential. Although height is (according to the author) strongly correlated with income, as always correlation does not imply causation. All of the other factors mentioned that are actually used in calculating taxes, such as number of children and existence of disabilities, have a fairly obvious causal relationship with increased expenses or decreased income. A more fair question to ask would be if people would reject taxing people with less ambiguous advantages, such as college degrees, more than others.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Basically, this solves every problem in our country where people are displeased with a service or law but yet another geographical location in the country doesn't offer the same problems. Just move! Don't like that there are no jobs in Detroit? Just move. Unhappy with the racist police? Just move. Wish you could buy liquor on Sunday? Just move.

Racial prejudice is illegal in most instances, so the action against racist police would be to go through appropriate channels, or get media coverage and make the local issue a national topic.

Services and laws are different from the cost of living, which was your first issue. Services and laws are set up by people, and they can be changed. People suggest the complaining parties move when the non-complainers are either compliant or enjoy the current situation. As for cost of living, you're competing with everyone else who enjoys the local amenities that you also enjoy. Cut the taxes, and it becomes even more appealing to live there.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2009


"So you're saying I could save money by lopping my feet off at the ankles? AND get disability on top of that? Double jeopardy!"

"That's not what you think it means..."

"Uhh...physical challenge!"

"Not on those hooves, pig boy!"
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


So basically this is "The Trees" by Rush in the form of an academic paper?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ya gagglezoomer, that was the point. The marginal cost of living in these places is lower because in aggregate they are perceived as being less desirable locations. A tax break signalling this would be counter productive. People would be encouraged to move to places with higher costs of living resulting in a higher cost of living in those places.
posted by Mitheral at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll pay what taxes I like, because I'm six foot five and I eat punks like you for breakfast.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2009


This article isn't best of the web. It's drivel. Authors need to pay more attention in class.
posted by anonymisc at 10:51 AM on June 24, 2009


I once saw a man who was blond and decent-looking and 6'4'' who spoke completely unprofessionally "(alls it is is)" promoted to be the manager of a new department in an insurance company, less than twelve months after being hired as temp employee straight off a basketball scholarship. He was very nice and very average and didn't have a lot of confidence and his newly wed wife was hesitating to start a family with him, a fact that he communicated without understanding what he was saying.

The Manager of the department we were both working in apparently reccommended him for the job as a way to export him.

He was really nice and dressed better than me and I certainly did not want to have a career there, so it's all good.
posted by longsleeves at 10:52 AM on June 24, 2009


One thing is clear – if a person rejects the policy of a tax on height, he must also reject, or significantly amend, the standard utilitarian approach to optimal taxation and income redistribution.
But that aside, I think the “smorgasboard” argument is a confused way of thinking about moral reasoning. A great many crucially important questions in normative ethics are easy. Is it okay to murder Greg Mankiw to steal the money in his pocket? No, it isn’t. But a lot of foundational questions in ethical theory are hard. And a lot of meta-ethical questions are hard. Normal people don’t even understand what all of these questions are. And those of us who’ve thought a little bit about them, but decided not to go into the professional philosophy game may be aware that there are issues in these areas about which we’re uncertain. There’s a certain hyper-literal sense in which these questions all form a hierarchy. First I must decide where I stand on meta-ethics. Am I a reductive moral realist? A quasi-realist? A practical reasons theorist? An old-school “moral facts are facts too, damnit” moral realist? Are there theological issues in play? Then I need to decide if I’m a utilitarian (and if so, what kind of utilitarian!) or maybe some other kind of consequentialist or maybe I have a more Kantian view. So then depending on those answers, I can say “killing Greg Mankiw to steal the money in his pocket is wrong because…” and then lay the whole thing out.

I think what Mankiw is implying with the “smorgasboard” argument is that this is how people should actually engage in moral reasoning. So if I find myself uncertain about a broad question in ethical theory, this uncertainty must logically inflict my first-order moral judgments. Maybe killing Greg Mankiw really is okay? And if I’m not uncertain, if I say “the reason it’s wrong to kill Greg Mankiw and steal his money is that the murder would reduce net utility” then the murderer can counter with “well, if you believe in utilitarianism, you ought to believe in a height tax.” Then I say “well that sounds wrong!” And then, having debunked utilitarianism, Mankiw gets shot and everyone agrees that justice has been done.
-- Matt Yglesias
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on June 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


face, meet palm
posted by kldickson at 10:52 AM on June 24, 2009


Gagglezoomer- I encourage you to come live in Oklahoma and make your dollars stretch further. Expect a huge cut in wages first. No public transportation to speak of. Two cities of even moderate size, both of which are virtually shut down by 10 pm. No Costco, good luck finding the convenience of Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Liquor cannot be bought in stores on Sunday, only watered down 3.2 beer. Our senators are Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. Yes, the Tom Coburn who thinks abortion doctors should get the death penalty. In my workplace, there are three people who would shake President Obama's hand and sixteen people who would spit on him. I don't mean they disagree with him, nor that they dislike him enough to refuse to shake his hand. No, I mean they actually hate him so much that they would literally spit on him. Their primary complaint about Gitmo is that they didn't do enough torturing.

Please, come on down. You can net a decent apartment for $500/month, or even a three bedroom house in a nice neighborhood for $1k/month in rent. We've also got some pretty good immigrant-run real Mexican restaurants and lots of sunny weather. Watch out for the tornadoes though. They'll blow you away.

As for the article, I take it these monetary-astrologists are 5' 9" each?
posted by Saydur at 10:57 AM on June 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


i think we should tax stupidity and that the authors are in a higher tax bracket than they realize
posted by pyramid termite at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


By the way, if we had a true progressive income tax most of this would be taken care of. Tall people would have to pay higher taxes because they made more. I don't think it makes too much sense to tax a short person making $100,000 a year less then a tall person making $20k simply because the average tall person makes more then the average short person.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2009


This is like taxing people for being black.
posted by kldickson at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a side discussion but relative cost of living and federal taxation is a particularly tricky problem. People in NYC make generally higher wages for the same work than people do in other countries. People in NYC also pay much (much, much etc) more more for certain things than people in the rest of the country. So for a person in NYC to have X standard of living they need Y income. For a person living someplace cheaper to have the same standard of living they need KY income where K is a value between 0 and 1. Because federal taxation is progressive the person A enjoying X standard of living in NYC will pay significantly more on his greater income Y than the person in a place that isn't way too expensive will spend on his lesser income KY even though he otherwise experiences the same standard of living.

This is sort of unfair, but it's also a really difficult problem to deal with because it's hard to compartmentalize why cities are expensive. Part of the reason why cities are expensive is because they are cool and fun to live in or they have nice weather or they are beautiful. To the extent that this is true the city sort of functions as a luxury good. Nothing wrong with that, but no reason to subsidize it. Cities are also expensive because they have better economic oppurtunities. On the other hand part of the reason why the economic oppurtunities are better in nominal terms is because the city is so expensive. It would be impossible to get enough qualified people to teach in NYC paying what is paid in Oklahoma. Because the way these different factors interact with each other it's really difficult to be fair about this.
posted by I Foody at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also from the post delmoi quoted:

"...how dangerous it is that the public discourse is so dominated by low-quality freelance philosophy done by people with PhDs in economics"

Word.
posted by snofoam at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


but i think there is a good argument to be made against extreme confiscatory tax rates on the rich - aside from the question of whether someone's going to be motivated to do much if the government's taking 70% of what he earns, i wonder if ordinary people would be that motivated to watch how their government is spending money if they're having "the other guy" pay for it - we should be aware of what we're paying for our government and what we're getting for it

i think the wealthy should pay a little more - but only a little more
posted by pyramid termite at 11:07 AM on June 24, 2009


Saydur - Wow, I didn't realize Oklahoma sucked so much. Thanks for the info. However, I am rather excited about the fact that at my current rent level I could have two houses and "keep" an pied a tierre in a nearby city for guests, etc. I'm not quite sure what I'd do with the other house, but I'm working on it.

Seriously, though, what the hell is going on in Oklahoma? Abortion doctors should get the death penalty? Even most fundies I know wouldn't advocate something that extreme. And spitting on the President? What the hell has he even done that it so fucking bad? What is nearest largish city near you if you don't mind me asking?
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:08 AM on June 24, 2009


Wait .. so after this will my 401k contributions be drawn from pre-slouch or post-slouch dollars?
posted by roue at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2009


I foody, thanks for the excellent explanation. I don't think its unfair that I have a higher cost of living than your average Okalahoman, etc. People are right, NYC is cooler and has better services and lots of other things. However, what I don't think is fair is that I should be taxed at the same rate on the portion of my income that goes towards expenses EVERYONE has, such as rent/housing, food, utilities and so on. Whatever that is, say a threshold of $25,000 in NY vs. $10,000 in OK. I guess that's what you were trying to lay out, in the fundamental unfairness/difficulty in dealing with the taxation problem.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2009


This article basically provides additional proof that the free market is very efficient at paying economists to be idiots.
posted by snofoam at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone concerned that higher tax rates for the rich punishes "productivity and effort" should be OK with a 100% inheritance tax, since inheriting wealth from your family is a function of neither productivity nor effort.
posted by rocket88 at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2009 [20 favorites]


Whatever that is, say a threshold of $25,000 in NY vs. $10,000 in OK. I guess that's what you were trying to lay out, in the fundamental unfairness/difficulty in dealing with the taxation problem

cough
posted by @troy at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's like reading something written by a person with two IQs: vocabulary, 140, logical reasoning, 70.
posted by GuyZero at 11:17 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like it. If no one were taller then I, we'd save on building materials and lots of other things. Tall people are just too tall, and there's just no excuse for it.

Now, let's move the discussion to fat people.
posted by cccorlew at 11:25 AM on June 24, 2009


Heck, anyone not exactly like me should pay higher taxes
posted by cccorlew at 11:25 AM on June 24, 2009


I have an extra vertebra. It's lumbar one. I'm also of Irish decent and my I.Q. has been measured at 158. That's ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT. My penis is below average in length but I understand that some people don't have one at all. And there have been some years in which I did not file an income tax return at all (but I have since atoned.)
posted by longsleeves at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


What the hell has he even done that it so fucking bad?

Gargage In, Garbage Out
posted by @troy at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2009


One thing is clear – if Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must reject, or significantly amend, the standard utilitarian approach to optimal taxation and income redistribution.

Chewbacca does not live on Endor; his home is with Mala and Lumpy and Itchy on Kashyyyk. That part of the Chewbacca defense is a lie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


My penis is below average in length but I understand that some people don't have one at all.

you owe me a keyboard

posted by DU at 11:31 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think EconomicsWorld is basically like a video game. There are rules, but they don't really have any bearing on the outside world.

I mean, what would engineering be like if the people designing bridges and airplanes had only a basic knowledge of classical mechanics and always ignored gravity and friction? Why does anyone believe economists at all?
posted by snofoam at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2009


My god this is so stupid I feel embarrassed for the authors, as well as all affiliated institutions, colleagues, friends and family. May the academic gods have mercy on their souls. That is all.
posted by drpynchon at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2009


Short people got no reason to live.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2009


I Foody is right. But also rural states ironically tend to suck up proportionally more in federal subsidies and welfare than they bring in to the pot. Especially when include monies related to the farm bill, special exceptions for mining companies and the privatized uses of federal lands. So with that in mind people in large cities actually do pay a disproportionate amount of taxes, etc. This is why senators from places like the Dakotas whining about big city welfare queens and taxes is so laughably absurd since many of these rural states essentially giant welfare suckers.

I don't know what can be done about it. With our current fiscal mess and economy the problem seems pretty intractable at this point.
posted by tkchrist at 11:36 AM on June 24, 2009


I realize this is a reductio ad absurdum argument. But I'd gladly pay a higher tax for being tall if it meant there were room for my fucking knees on the bus.

lolwut?

Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum
posted by jock@law at 11:36 AM on June 24, 2009


I look down my nose at this ridiculous proposition, from my lofty, influential, sexy, overpaid, 75 inches of height.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2009


Short people got no reason to live pay less tax. FTFY.
posted by Cranberry at 11:40 AM on June 24, 2009


Anyone concerned that higher tax rates for the rich punishes "productivity and effort" should be OK with a 100% inheritance tax, since inheriting wealth from your family is a function of neither productivity nor effort.

Nobody earning over five times the mean wage should be bitching about taxes. But there is something fundamentally troubling about being taxed twice. Once for your income over the course of your life and again on the SAME income after you are dead. And not all estates are passed on to family. For instance our neighbor is Kay Bullet and she is deeding a large chunk of land estate to the city for a Park. And I'm not entirely sure how that may effect her eventual inheritance tax.
posted by tkchrist at 11:44 AM on June 24, 2009


For a person living someplace cheaper to have the same standard of living they need KY income

I actually prefer to spend my income on Astroglide X.
posted by jock@law at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, well at least I can fit in airplane seats without banging my knees!

Stop calling me short!
posted by backseatpilot at 11:51 AM on June 24, 2009


I'm amusing myself by imagining the comments in a similar post about a fat tax.
posted by orange swan at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


But there is something fundamentally troubling about being taxed twice. Once for your income over the course of your life and again on the SAME income after you are dead.

The deceased pays the first taxes you mentioned while they are alive. The inheritors pay the second when they receive the windfall. Nobody is being taxed twice.
posted by rocket88 at 11:55 AM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


The deceased pays the first taxes you mentioned while they are alive. The inheritors pay the second when they receive the windfall. Nobody is being taxed twice.

That's disingenuous. The money was earned by the diseased and has already been taxed.
posted by tkchrist at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2009


Can someone please please please find a study that advocates a fat tax or a skinny tax and post it?
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:04 PM on June 24, 2009


pyramid termite: the question of whether someone's going to be motivated to do much if the government's taking 70% of what he earns... i think the wealthy should pay a little more - but only a little more

I mean sorta. There are diminishing marginal gains per nominal dollar as you move up the income ladder, but there is also diminishing marginal effort per nominal dollar. It's really, really easy for Donald Trump to make an extra $60,000 this year if he wants to, so the fact that we're going to take $21,000* of that doesn't really bother me. It's relatively easy for a mid-level associate at a large law firm to make an extra $30,000 (bill an extra 300 hours that year...), so it's not that bad to take $10,000 of it. That's still $67/hour, after taxes.

The market already recognizes the very real effect of diminishing returns on nominal value. A mildly progressive tax system like ours really might be better off viewed not as progressive per se, but as a flat tax adjusted to the real value of marginal gains in income.

* For illustrative purposes, I'm operating on the assumption -- plainly wrong -- that Donald Trump's income is all regular income and not capital gains; because the capital gains tax is not progressive, compared to the regular income tax, calculating Trump's probable "real" marginal tax on that $60,000 is useless to the discussion.
posted by jock@law at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2009


That's a bogus argument, TK.

Not double-taxing money means not taxing money.

I should not pay taxes, because all of my income was already taxed when it was ripped from the hands of New York's taxpayers. In your language, the money was earned by others and has already been taxed.

Retail stores should not pay tax, because all of the income they receive was earned by others and taxed then.

Employees of retail stores should not pay tax, because they receive their pay from retail stores who receive only post-tax income.

Suppliers of retail stores, and manufacturers of their products, should not pay taxes because they are paid by retail stores, who receive post-tax income.

Employees of suppliers and manufacturers should not pay taxes because they receive their pay from suppliers who receive it from retailers who receive it from people who have already had their income taxed.

In real life, the same dollar bill is taxed multiple times as it passes from person to person, shifting from being someone's expense to someone else's income. Inheritance is just another transaction or transfer, and there's no reason to think that it should be specially treated.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:22 PM on June 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


The money was earned by the diseased and has already been taxed.

Money isn't taxed. Income is taxed. These are not the same thing. Every time money changes hands, it's taxed. There isn't really any difference between receiving money as a gift or receiving money for services or products.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh logical fallacies and a poor understanding of academic philosophy, what can't you do?
posted by HotPants at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


tkchrist: please don't call people disingenuous just because you disagree with them. it's very offensive.

Money that has already been taxed when earned is often taxed when it changes hands or otherwise undergoes some transformation. Add in the fact that estate taxes only apply to very large estates, almost assuredly belonging to parties sophisticated enough to plan for taxes appropriately, and I have a hard time being outraged. Furthermore, class differences are perpetuated far more by wealth than income [cite]; it therefore seems to me that social mobility, the prevention of aristocracy, and the nature of American democracy itself almost requires an estate tax.

As for your neighbor, if she is in fact deeding it (not willing it) as a donation to a local government, that tax will almost assuredly not be taxed (NB: IANATL). If, because of that donation, her estate at death will now be less than the threshold amount for the estate tax to apply, it will obviously have significant (beneficial for her heirs, detrimental for the Treasury) tax ramifications. (Again, NB: IANATL).
posted by jock@law at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2009


Fuck this. How about first we have an income tax adjustable inverse to cost of living? I live in New York City and yet pay marginal taxes on each additional dollar of income above the minimum threshold that are actually higher than someone who lives in say, Oklahoma, and makes the same nominal income, their dollars stretching much farther than mine.

gagglezoomer: as someone who has lived a great deal of his life in both NYC and Oklahoma, I can tell you that as far as the cost-of-living thing goes, you, um... you get what you pay for.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:33 PM on June 24, 2009


Oh, you like eating things? Well then you have to be consistent and eat those rocks.
posted by jfrancis at 12:33 PM on June 24, 2009


I'm 6'3" and I don't make much money. Whatever.
posted by empyrean at 12:35 PM on June 24, 2009


Fat tax first thought of back in the 1970's. I thought the airlines were testing this out by charging for two seats.
posted by brent at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2009


There isn't really any difference between receiving money as a gift or receiving money for services or products.

well my reading of the estate tax says the estate is in fact getting taxed! If it makes tk feel better maybe we can look at the transfer of the wealth from the person to his estate as a taxable event :)
posted by @troy at 12:56 PM on June 24, 2009


Nobody earning over five times the mean wage should be bitching about taxes. But there is something fundamentally troubling about being taxed twice. Once for your income over the course of your life and again on the SAME income after you are dead.

Uh. People are not being taxed twice, they are being taxed for inheriting money. If someone dies and leaves you some money, then you pay tax on it just like you would any income (except you get deduct the first million dollars or so).

If a person leaves their money to charity, or indeed, if they divide up their money so that no one gets over the limit (which, again is on the order of a million dollars) then no one will get taxed.

The idea that you're "taxed twice" by the "death tax" is an absurd republican talking point.

And not all estates are passed on to family. For instance our neighbor is Kay Bullet and she is deeding a large chunk of land estate to the city for a Park. And I'm not entirely sure how that may effect her eventual inheritance tax.

Her "eventual" inheritance tax is only the tax she would pay if people leave her money. When she dies, she won't pay any inheritance tax, because she'll be dead. If she leaves the money to a non-profit, they won't have to pay anything.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


If someone dies and leaves you some money, then you pay tax on it just like you would any income

No, if someone dies and leaves you money, the estate pays taxes on its value and you personally pay no taxes on the amount you inherit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:02 PM on June 24, 2009


Oh damn there are lawyes here
posted by longsleeves at 1:08 PM on June 24, 2009


lawyers. Damn.

(The devil is in the details.)
posted by longsleeves at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2009


That's disingenuous. The money was earned by the diseased and has already been taxed.

And this is absurd, of course. Money is taxed when it changes hands. All money is taxed far more then twice. I get paid (let's say I get paid with TARP money, fresh off the presses), and pay income tax (1). Then I buy stuff with my money and the store pays corporate tax (2) Then the store pays it's employees and they pay tax (3) the employee saves his money and leaves it too his kids and the kids pay inheritance tax (4). So the money in this example has been taxed four times, and it's been transferred between four different groups.

But each person is involved in two links in the chain of transactions, so they "see" the money taxed twice. But they only are responsible for paying taxes on one 'end' of the chain. When they receive money. If no person receives inheritance money, for example if the money is given to a non-profit. Then no one pays tax on it.

Again, money isn't taxed, transfers are taxed. If we taxed "money" we would tax it every year the way we do property. Frankly, I think that would be a much more equitable way of doing it. But I think it would be easier to cheat. People could just hoard gold bars or something.
posted by delmoi at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2009


No, if someone dies and leaves you money, the estate pays taxes on its value and you personally pay no taxes on the amount you inherit.

Eh, that's kind of a technicality. I guess unless the money is being divided up among a bunch of people. But people can still donate the money to non-profits tax free (or, often setup trusts that their kids run if they're really rich)
posted by delmoi at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2009


The money was earned by the diseased and has already been taxed.

What if you are murdered or die in an accident instead of disease.
posted by snofoam at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2009


?
posted by snofoam at 1:28 PM on June 24, 2009


It is interesting to note that Gregory Mankiw was pursuing graduate work in MIT's economics department and at Harvard Law School at around the same time. According to his Wikipedia entry, he got his Ph.D. in economics and entered into academic economics because, among other things, he couldn't hack it at HLS.
posted by jock@law at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2009


Money is taxed when it changes hands.

Money is taxed when the government says it's taxed. There are lots of reasons that asset taxes are a bad idea, but it's perfectly legitimate to say that one a year you pay the government 15% of your total assets or something. Inheritance taxes are what they are and are no mor eor less legit than any otehr tax.
posted by GuyZero at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I gather that this is intended as a reductio, but I think it's flatly correct. What's up with all the inarticulate dismissals?
posted by grobstein at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2009


If you're six feet tall but have your legs amputated, are you taxed on your former height or your current height? Is that height-tax calculated while standing on your stumps, or while seated in a wheelchair? Also, if you're born without legs, does that mean you're taxed on your speculated height, your actual height, or your height while wearing prosthetics? If so, doesn't that mean people who use prosthetic legs would be able to alter their height to favor a certain tax bracket? What about people who are bedridden and cannot stand up? Is their height-tax calculated by the distance from floor to the bed?
posted by mattdidthat at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2009


According to his Wikipedia entry, he got his Ph.D. in economics and entered into academic economics because, among other things, he couldn't hack it at HLS.

No, the Wikipedia entry says he didn't finish his law degree because he "was not as comparatively good at law" as compared to economics. Considering that he became a professor of economics at Harvard, that does not suggest to me he could not "hack it at HLS" (especially since virtually everyone at HLS gets B's or better).
posted by brain_drain at 2:19 PM on June 24, 2009


If we taxed "money" we would tax it every year the way we do property.

We do: It's called inflation. In order to bail out the finance industry, for example, we need to tax people's money by printing more dollars, making every existing dollar worth some fraction of what it was worth before.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 PM on June 24, 2009


In any case, the marginal income tax rate in this country reached as high as 77% for millionaires during WW I and between 60-95% during the Great Depression and WW II. This is the age of the Rockefellers, Fords, Mellons, Morgans, etc.

Taxation for the highest brackets remained in the 90% range until the mid-1960s, before dropping for a short period to 70%.

What are the wealthiest Americans taxed now, to the extent that their wealth is not already hidden in off-shore accounts? 35%.

Capital gains tax rates have been even lower due to tax relief bill passed during the Bush administration.

Still, when we hear about height taxes we can all get upset and righteous about taxation in general, and the Joe-the-Plumber jet-set amongst us will argue strenuously, passionately about how the rich are overburdened with onerous taxes — even though they are paying less now than they have at pretty much any point in modern American history.

No matter that our bridges are collapsing, our rail systems are a deadly joke, our inner-city schools are using 20-30+ year-old textbooks in fungi-ridden, decrepit buildings, and we have the weakest oversight of critical health, food and financial systems of any industrialized nation.

That's right, folks: It's important to be reminded through a purely theoretical piece of analysis that, at tax time, we all need to look out for number 1, but most importantly look out for the wealthy, who deserve the biggest breaks of all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're six feet tall but have your legs amputated, are you taxed on your former height or your current height? Is that height-tax calculated while standing on your stumps, or while seated in a wheelchair? Also, if you're born without legs, does that mean you're taxed on your speculated height, your actual height, or your height while wearing prosthetics? If so, doesn't that mean people who use prosthetic legs would be able to alter their height to favor a certain tax bracket? What about people who are bedridden and cannot stand up? Is their height-tax calculated by the distance from floor to the bed?

I mean, these are all problems that would have to be dealt with in implementing a height tax. But I hope you're not suggesting that makes it trickier than an income tax. Have a look at the tax code some time.
posted by grobstein at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2009


posted by grobstein I mean, these are all problems that would have to be dealt with in implementing a height tax. But I hope you're not suggesting that makes it trickier than an income tax. Have a look at the tax code some time.

Not at all. I'm suggesting that taxing people based on a physical trait or condition over which they have no control is an asinine and bigoted idea, and it should be ridiculed as such.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:47 PM on June 24, 2009


The authors' assertion that "if a person rejects the policy of a tax on height, he must also reject, or significantly amend, the standard utilitarian approach to optimal taxation and income redistribution" is specious at best. The paper makes a lot of arguments based on false assumptions.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2009


No matter that our bridges are collapsing, our rail systems are a deadly joke, our inner-city schools are using 20-30+ year-old textbooks in fungi-ridden, decrepit buildings, and we have the weakest oversight of critical health, food and financial systems of any industrialized nation.

But Blazecock, taxes are all about income redistribution. That stuff has nothing to do with taxes. And the implicit subsidy of business via government-built infrastructure is also, well, it's something but it certainly has nothing to do with tax. Did you not ready the paper????
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on June 24, 2009


Not at all. I'm suggesting that taxing people based on a physical trait or condition over which they have no control is an asinine and bigoted idea, and it should be ridiculed as such.

That's a pure nonsequitur. Your post showed that their are many tricky details of implementation for a notional height tax. But it doesn't follow that it is "bigoted"(!!!). If it did, the same could be said of the income tax, which is in a constant state of flux from attempts to deal with knotty problems not unlike your amputation hypo.

Fact is, income is only one, imperfect way of measuring well-being, and redistributive taxes would be more accurate if they accounted for more possible dimensions of well-being.
posted by grobstein at 2:58 PM on June 24, 2009


What exactly is a "redistributive" tax and how is it different from a regular tax?
posted by GuyZero at 3:15 PM on June 24, 2009


In response to the earlier digression about return on federal tax dollars New York vs. Oklahoma.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:16 PM on June 24, 2009


From five years ago...
posted by jock@law at 3:26 PM on June 24, 2009


I realize that states rarely receive the exact same amount of federal spending as their residents send off in federal income tax - in Canada it's far more explicit and is actually called a transfer payment as the feds in Canada have the power to collect the money but only the provinces have the authority to spend it in certain areas, like heathcare.

But as a tax payer, how do I differentiate between the tax dollars that go to pay for services that benefit me versus the money that's being "redistributed"?

This is rhetorical of course - "redistributive" is a red herring used by quasi-libertarians to make all taxation seem socialist. Taxes pay for a variety of things that are nowhere nearly all "redistributive" (the military, transportation infrastructure) and are a tool of social policy the government uses to incent behaviours it deems beneficial to the country (childrearing, investing in equity markets, etc).

The idea that the government is simply handing money from rich people to poor people is ridiculous and that's essentially what this paper asserts taxes are. It's claim is that if you think tall people giving money to poor people via taxation is silly then you must therefore think all types of taxation inequity are silly. Which is nonsense.

Also, I have commented way too much in this thread.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I gather that this is intended as a reductio, but I think it's flatly correct. What's up with all the inarticulate dismissals?

The dismissals are because they proceed from a bad premise. Their premise is that the reader is a pure utilitarian, of the "maximize the sum of individual utility functions no matter how morally ridiculous the means to do so become."

They then term this the standard model, implying (through their conclusion) that this must be what the reader (who supports some level of redistribution) believes.

The dismissals you find inarticulate are appearing so frequently because their premise is somewhere between merely laughably wrong and a lie.

Essentially nobody is a pure utilitarian. Essentially nobody bases their support for redistribution by the government on pure utilitarian grounds, much less on the very specific models proffered by economists to economists that constitute the so-called "standard" model.

Because essentially nobody is a pure utilitarian, their premise is false and their conclusions are irrelevant. Because they put forward utilitarianism as the reader's "real" beliefs, they possibly move beyond merely being wrong into being dishonest.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:50 PM on June 24, 2009


More succinctly, their argument boils down to this:

(1) Reader, you favor redistribution.
(2) Therefore you are a utilitarian, because there exist utilitarian theories of redistribution.
(3) Now suppose that there exists some psychopath who derives extreme utility from torturing people to death. Suppose also that there are other people who are despondent, depressed, have suicidal ideations, and so on, whose utility is already very low.
(4) Clearly, you as a utilitarian social planner would favor kidnapping people and gifting them to the psychopath so long as the psychopath's utility from torturing them exceeded their disutility from being tortured. Doing so would result in a net increase in utility, after all.
(5) Therefore, if you are opposed to kidnapping sad people and giving them to psychopaths to be tortured to death, you are opposed to the modern welfare state.

And as before, their argument breaks down at the very beginning: the reader is not a utilitarian.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:56 PM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Then it seems like what you object to is mainly rhetorical posture. Indeed, Mankiw's presentation is a little smug. But restate the paper's argument as a conditional one: "If you accept this utilitarian case for redistributive taxes, then you should logically accept the case for a height tax." Your objection has vanished.

This seems to me still a useful and interesting argument, at least because it logically forces us to examine the justifications for our basic social policies. You can flippantly say "no one believes in utilitarianism, therefore this paper is useless," but I think that ignores the important role basic utilitarian arguments can play in justifying a system of wealth redistribution. Many people's position seems to be some variation on, "I don't support income taxes on utilitarian grounds, I support them just because." Surely we can do better than that.

The selection of pure utilitarianism as the background model for this paper should be understood as merely a simplifying assumption. In fact, the conclusions are robust to many possible moral theories in support of redistributive taxation, as long as they support it in order to shift advantages from the favored to the disfavored. Think for example of a Rawlsian model, or some kind of "equal opportunity" theory.

When you strip away all the name-calling from Yglesias's (and Conor Clarke's) responses, what you get is close to: "I don't need to practice reflective equilibrium, I can support income taxes and not height taxes because those are my intuitions and I don't need to interrogate them further." This is disappointing, especially coming from someone who's dressing himself up as a defender of a finer, more nuanced philosophy.
posted by grobstein at 4:41 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I actually read the article. It seems the issue isn't about actually taxing tall people, but equating tall people to wealthy people.

Its logical premise is that because taller people have a higher ability to make more money, they should be taxed at a higher rate; this is equated to the premise that because wealthy people have the ability to make more money, they should also be taxed at a higher rate.

Logical fallacies abound. People aren't taxed by ability; they are taxed on fact. The fact that people have higher income leads to higher taxation. We tax higher income based on things that take little to no ability; for instance, we tax winnings from the lotto as higher income.

The author erroneously states that "income ... is a function of productivity and effort." Bullshit. Tell that to Enron shareholders that are intimately aware of how Ken Lay and his crew fabricated billions of dollars in income. Income often is, and in a perfect world would be, the function of productivity and effort. But, really, "Function of productivity and effort"? Could you pick any two more subjective things? How about a function of ninjas and Barney the dinosaur?

The federal government does not tax based on ability. That's a stupid, straw man argument. The federal government taxes people living in NYC the same as they are taxed in Oklahoma City. The federal government taxes people people who graduated only med school, college, high school or elementary school at the same rate; they do not tax you more because you reached a higher education level.

The authors are simply trying to push their libertarian and/or conservative flat tax agenda in a stupid way.

But, I'm short, so I'm all for taxing you tall motherfuckers as much as possible.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:46 PM on June 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think we should tax economists in inverse proportion to the amount of correct predictions they've ever made.

Anyone?
posted by lumpenprole at 4:49 PM on June 24, 2009


I think that ignores the important role basic utilitarian arguments can play in justifying a system of wealth redistribution

That not everyone pays an equal amount of tax does not mean that taxes are wealth redistribution. The entire notion of utilitarianism is irrelevant compared to that rather sweeping assumption.
posted by GuyZero at 5:03 PM on June 24, 2009


The federal government taxes people living in NYC the same as they are taxed in Oklahoma City.

Except with the cost of living differences, the effective tax paid by a resident of NYC versus Oklahoma city is much higher. Indeed, the effective tax paid by most residents of most states with a higher population density is higher. At the end of the day, a NYC resident at the same income level as and Oklahoma resident can buy less with their after tax income. I guess the economic purists would argue that the 50% higher cost of living in say Queens over Oklahoma City would come with a proportionate increase in utility. I'd agree to some extent for those in higher tax brackets, more affluent people still have leftover disposable income to avail themselves of a variety of cultural opportunities that may not be as rich in a smaller city. However, for those in racial and socioeconomic ghettos, there may not be a choice available to move to areas with lower costs of living away from their social networks and family support. They are going to bear a disproportionate amount of lifestyle impact from any tax that doesn't take cost of living into account, especially those who cannot deduct their state tax or sales tax because it is below the standard deduction threshold.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:29 PM on June 24, 2009


That not everyone pays an equal amount of tax does not mean that taxes are wealth redistribution. The entire notion of utilitarianism is irrelevant compared to that rather sweeping assumption.

I want to use the word "redistribution" in a non-judgmental, functional way. Taxes are redistributive insofar as they change the allocation of wealth (understood broadly) relative to what it would be without those taxes. Indeed, this is one of the justifications given for income taxes (though not the only one).
posted by grobstein at 5:46 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


tkchrist: please don't call people disingenuous just because you disagree with them. it's very offensive.

I didn't mean to call the person disingenuous. Just the argument. But I see that I was wrong. So I apologize.


Money that has already been taxed when earned is often taxed when it changes hands or otherwise undergoes some transformation. Add in the fact that estate taxes only apply to very large estates, almost assuredly belonging to parties sophisticated enough to plan for taxes appropriately, and I have a hard time being outraged. Furthermore, class differences are perpetuated far more by wealth than income [cite]; it therefore seems to me that social mobility, the prevention of aristocracy, and the nature of American democracy itself almost requires an estate tax.


Okay. I agree.
posted by tkchrist at 5:49 PM on June 24, 2009


I am six feet tall. My pediatrician predicted that I would be a tall man. The "Man" part was a safe bet because he saw me naked but I think maybe he merely measured my femurs for the "Tall" part. I don't think anyone should tax me on the basis of my height, because my back hurts.
posted by longsleeves at 6:03 PM on June 24, 2009


But restate the paper's argument as a conditional one: "If you accept this utilitarian case for redistributive taxes, then you should logically accept the case for a height tax." Your objection has vanished.

I'd amend that to "If you accept that global utilitarian arguments are the only possible case for redistribution, then you should accept a height tax."

And as well, that's not what they state. They state instead, "You believe in redistribution, therefore it follows that you believe the following utilitarian argument..."

I think that ignores the important role basic utilitarian arguments can play in justifying a system of wealth redistribution.

Sure, it can. So can the argument that "Zeus and all the gods of Olympus demand that we have redistributive taxes or they will drown us in Worcestershire sauce." Both can play a role in justifying a system of redistribution. Neither do. At least, not among the mass public as distinct from in academic articles.

Also, you're confusing "arguments that accept some degree of utilitarianism" and "arguments that some stated consequence is one positive aspect of redistribution" with Mankiw's "You believe in redistribution, therefore you are purely and totally a utilitarian and will accept whatever maximizes overall utility even if it is morally abhorrent."

Many people's position seems to be some variation on, "I don't support income taxes on utilitarian grounds, I support them just because." Surely we can do better than that.

People aren't required to justify their preference orderings, especially not in an economic-theory setting. Preferences are given.

The selection of pure utilitarianism as the background model for this paper should be understood as merely a simplifying assumption. In fact, the conclusions are robust to many possible moral theories in support of redistributive taxation, as long as they support it in order to shift advantages from the favored to the disfavored. Think for example of a Rawlsian model, or some kind of "equal opportunity" theory.

Only so long as they posit that that goal is the single overriding goal that must be pursued at all cost and at every opportunity, and that there is no other aspect of justice that the mythical social planner need follow in the slightest, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever.

A Rawlsian model wouldn't act in that way anyway, I don't think (though I haven't looked at Rawls since the early 90s). A Rawlsian model would argue that if you didn't know whether you would be favored or disfavored in the economic system, you would favor redistribution. That's not utilitarianism, that's just arguing that people are risk-averse. It would be entirely possible for a system of redistribution to be universally accepted behind the veil of ignorance even if it were Pareto-inferior.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2009


Besides, the conclusion that strong utilitarianism can lead to outlandish outcomes is hardly unique or interesting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2009


Besides, the conclusion that strong utilitarianism can lead to outlandish outcomes is hardly unique or interesting.

When you start with outlandish premises you shouldn't be surprised when your conclusions follow suit. Using this as an attack on utilitarianism is like saying "suppose I weighed as much as the moon, then would furniture just fly towards me? Since the notion of a person rolling up furniture like a real life Katamari ball is ridiculous, Newton's theory of gravity must be fundamentally wrong".
posted by Pyry at 6:34 PM on June 24, 2009


I would be willing to pay the entire excess of my income after required expenses like rent / food and a reasonable per diem for recreation if it meant I could go to any school for free, any doctor for free, and could talk to the President in person by appointment.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:48 PM on June 24, 2009


*of my income (in taxes) after...
posted by lazaruslong at 6:48 PM on June 24, 2009


Then again, I have no desire to accumulate more wealth than I need to live, so perhaps I am not part of the constituency to start with.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:50 PM on June 24, 2009


I too take _extreme_ issue with the author's assertion that income differences are a function of differences in productivity and effort.
posted by flotson at 7:09 PM on June 24, 2009


I want to use the word "redistribution" in a non-judgmental, functional way.

Ok - I'm not a professional economist so I may be missing out on a term of art here.

Taxes are redistributive insofar as they change the allocation of wealth (understood broadly) relative to what it would be without those taxes. Indeed, this is one of the justifications given for income taxes (though not the only one).

Uh, is that tautological? Ok, so all takes are redistributive then? Because in some non-scholarly googling, people seem to use the phrase "redistributive tax" as something distinct from regular tax. Is paper arguing against all tax then?

Progressive taxes are progressive because there's decreasing marginal utility for income above a certain level. Tax brackets are de facto statements of the marginal utility of income in the eyes of the government. But to argue against progressive taxation is (among other things) to argue against decreasing marginal utility which is a pretty fundamental idea. Now, whether marginal utility decreases at $100,000 or $1,000,000 is a matter of debate and dogma, but at some point it decreases.

Anyway, what exactly is this paper arguing *for*? Even if I buy their argument, what is the alternative to a "redistributive" tax? A tax that doesn't change the allocation of wealth? I'm missing something here.
posted by GuyZero at 9:42 PM on June 24, 2009


What is money? You need to ask your crazy sister.
posted by longsleeves at 12:14 AM on June 25, 2009


A flat tax for only purely public goods would not be redistributive by most interpretations.

Property taxes - which usually go for very local services like firefighting and local schools - are not usually considered to be redistributive.

"Redistributive" means, largely, that it subsidizes poor people.
posted by jock@law at 11:58 AM on June 25, 2009


Wait. Isn't Mankiw the author of the Pigou Club Manifesto?
posted by rush at 1:49 PM on June 25, 2009


Property tax is generally based on the asset value, so it's essentially a progressive asset tax.

But a flat head tax is regressive and - in both the technical and lay senses of the word. If this is basically an article arguing for a flat tax then it's taking a pretty long road to do so.

Besides, most infrastructure is essential free transportation infrastructure for business owners, so why would a flat tax not be redistributive to the wealthy? What about tax incentives that attract new businesses to an area?

I we're going to keep score, let's be fair and realize that this goes both ways.

And let's be clear that there are plenty of arguments to this idiotic paper that are a lot better than "the authors smell like poo" (although they probably do).
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2009


Wait. Isn't Mankiw the author of the Pigou Club Manifesto?

I dunno, but a $1 per gallon gas tax is a fantastic idea.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "I don't think it makes too much sense to tax a short person making $100,000 a year less then a tall person making $20k simply because the average tall person makes more then the average short person."

But that's not far from Mankiw's own reasoning: how is it fair to tax a given high-earner more than a given low-earner, just because the average high-earner makes more than the average low-earner?

By the way, I'm surprised no-one's linked to Yoram Bauman's "Principles of Economics, Translated", an econo-comedy routine responding Mankiw's textbook.
posted by logopetria at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2009


But that's not far from Mankiw's own reasoning: how is it fair to tax a given high-earner more than a given low-earner, just because the average high-earner makes more than the average low-earner?

Do you see why it is so much easier to simply ask this question, than to draft up an absolutely inane essay based on inept postulates and makes no logical sense? Surely there is no need to compare taxing higher income to taxing taller people; the argument is (poorly) designed to inspire unnecessary passion.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:23 PM on June 25, 2009


A cursory search doesn't show how tall the authors are, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that they are both under 5'10"
posted by Cats' Concert at 6:58 AM on June 26, 2009


"As a white male standing 69 inches tall, I'm all in favor of this proposal."

Shit, boy, I have penes longer than you.
posted by Eideteker at 8:10 AM on June 26, 2009


Shit, boy, I have penes longer than you.

A lot of them, or just a few?
posted by grobstein at 11:22 AM on June 26, 2009


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