Every so often, I’ll assert that some statists are so consumed by envy and spite that they favor high tax rates on the “rich” even if the net effect (because of diminished economic output) is less revenue for government.
In other words, they deliberately and openly want to be on the right side (which is definitely the wrong side) of the Laffer Curve.
Just in case you think I’m exaggerating in order to make my opponents look foolish, check out this poll of left-wing voters who strongly favored soak-the-rich tax hikes even if there was no extra tax collected.
But now I have an even better example.
Writing for Vox, Matthew Yglesias openly argues that we should be on the downward-sloping portion of the Laffer Curve. Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, “the case for confiscatory taxation” is part of the title for his article.
Here’s some of what he wrote.
Maybe at least some taxes should be really high. Maybe even really really high. So high as to useless for revenue-raising purposes — but powerful for achieving other ends. We already accept this principle for tobacco taxes. If all we wanted to do was raise revenue, we might want to slightly cut cigarette taxes. …But we don’t do that because we care about public health. We tax tobacco not to make money but to discourage smoking.
The tobacco tax analogy is very appropriate.
Indeed, one of my favorite arguments is to point out that we have high taxes on cigarettes precisely because politicians want to discourage smoking.
As a good libertarian, I then point out that government shouldn’t be trying to control our private lives, but my bigger point is that the economic arguments about taxes and smoking are the same as those involving taxes on work, saving, investment.
Needless to say, I want people to understand that high tax rates are a penalty, and it’s particularly foolish to impose penalties on productive behavior.
But not according to Matt. He specifically argues for ultra-high tax rates as a “deterrence” to high levels of income.
If we take seriously the idea that endlessly growing inequality can have a cancerous effect on our democracy, we should consider it for top incomes as well. …apply the same principle of taxation-as-deterrence to very high levels of income. …Imagine a world in which we…imposed a 90 percent marginal tax rate on salaries above $10 million. This seems unlikely to raise substantial amounts of revenue.
I suppose we should give him credit for admitting that high tax rates won’t generate revenue. Which means he’s more honest than some of his fellow statists who want us to believe confiscatory tax rates will produce more money.
But honesty isn’t the same as wisdom.
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