Some Links

by Don Boudreaux on November 6, 2015

in Crony Capitalism, Inequality, Law, Other People's Money, Regulation, Subsidies

Here’s my colleague Larry White’s new paper – a paper on income redistribution.  And here’s the Abstract:

I critically consider four purported economic-efficiency arguments for egalitarian redistribution of income or wealth. (1) Jeremy Bentham’s “greatest aggregate happiness” criterion has been used (by Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, A. C. Pigou, Abba Lerner, and more recently Richard Layard) to argue for wealth transfers toward the poor based on the supposition that they register higher happiness from a marginal dollar. Drawing from Vilfredo Pareto and Lionel Robbins, however, I argue that modern economic theory is not about individual happiness, let alone aggregate happiness, and therefore does not support (nor refute) any happiness-based case for wealth redistribution. (2) Theories based on a “social welfare function” misapply the economic way of thinking in a different way. (3) Other writers have framed redistribution as a public good, and public goods provision by the state as a voluntary collective means of satisfying individual preferences, thereby using modern economic theory to formulate a rationale for redistributive policies based on Pareto-efficiency. I criticize this rationale for resting on suppositions about actual preferences that are self-immunized against falsification. (4) James Buchanan made a related case for taxing inheritances based on the supposition that in constitutional deliberation behind a veil of ignorance we would agree to such a policy based on our preference for a certain kind of fairness. I find this argument non-economic, equally non-falsifiable, and no more plausible than alternative suppositions about our common preferences. The economic way of thinking does speak clearly, however, about how taxes on income or wealth discourage its production, the more so the higher the marginal tax rate.

George Will wisely calls upon the U.S. Supreme Court to actively protect Americans’ Constitutional rights – all of them.

Tim Carney is rightly unimpressed by Marco Rubio’s excuses for keeping in place Uncle Sam’s policies that artificially enrich U.S. sugar farmers at the expense of American consumers and taxpayers.

Arnold Kling expands a bit on my earlier call for economists to be more like biologists.

Jared Meyer and James Delmore identify the true source of unnecessarily high residential rents.

Writing in the Orange County Register, GMU Econ alum (and University of Tampa economist) Abby Hall explains why millennials sensibly distrust Uncle Sam.  (HT Walter Grinder)  A slice:

Their distrust should be encouraged. The first lessons I teach my economics students are about means-and-ends and tradeoffs. I tell them that whenever we analyze a policy matter, whether it’s the minimum wage, health care, ivory hunting or abortion, we have to ask ourselves these questions. First, do the chosen policies achieve the desired goals? Second, what tradeoffs do we face with regard to a particular policy; that is, are there alternatives that would yield better results?

These kinds of simple questions often are ignored by policymakers and the public.


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