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Robert Frank on Inequality

The latest EconTalk is Robert Frank talking about inequality. There’s lots of back and forth–even more of a conversation than usual. There’s lots of disagreement but it’s very civilized. I enjoyed it very much.

At one point, Frank makes the case for a consumption tax with rates that rise steeply with income. He wants to discourage wasteful status competition while preserving the incentives for productivity. On the podcast, I agree with him that the pursuit of material success can be destructive to the human enterprise. What I should have added is that I don’t want the government to play parent or clergy in getting me to be a better person–that’s a task I’d prefer to emerge from the self-help, spiritual, and religious marketplace. When government gets in the business of improving us, it crowds out more competitive and responsive forces that would do the same. It also gets steered to achieve other purposes.