Tall tales of taxing talent

Matt’s post on equity and efficiency reminds me of a paper by Greg Mankiw and Matthew Weinzierl on optimal taxation. The idea is as follows. Suppose that we think equity means a society where everyone has the opportunity to earn income proportional to the effort that they exert. The hardest workers are those who succeed in earning the most money, while others may choose a life of leisure and earn less. Well, to establish such a utopian place we’d have to do a lot more than eliminate racism, sexism and xenophobia from the human race. Read more

The economics of Mrs Lovett


Image courtesy of Rose Colligan.

Most economic research is a process of adding to ideas that have already been thought of. In Mrs Lovett’s case her grand plan involves adding concepts to Sweeney Todd’s welfare policy.

Now if you haven’t seen the movie yet, this might be a bit more of a spoiler than the previous post. As a result, think carefully before you click below the flap.

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Caps on healthcare

Greg Mankiw reports that a lady in Britain was prevented from supplementing her state-provided healthcare with private care. Apparently the NHS favours equality over efficiency:

Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.

Clearly, this restriction on her ability to spend her money as she sees fit is not allocatively efficient. The policy is also likely to diminish the health of the population, as the rich are no longer allowed to boost their healthcare levels above what is offered by the government. That, in turn is likely to lead to a greater burden on the government run, public healthcare system.

The morality of equality must run strongly through the British government for it to prevent spending that would reduce the load on its own health funding. Mankiw has an interesting analogy for those who agree with the government’s policy:

Should a parent who hires an after-school tutor for his child be barred from sending the child to the public schools?

Sweeney Todd’s welfare policy


After recently watching the movie ‘Sweeney Todd‘ one question popped into my mind, is the welfare policy he derives optimal? Below the flap I will discuss his welfare policy – if you haven’t seen the movie or watched the broadway show then read at your own risk. Although I don’t talk about the movie itself, and the welfare policy won’t tell you anything you wouldn’t find by watching the trailer.

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Cap-and-tax vs carbon trading

The Congressional Budget Office reported recently on its comparison of a cap-and-trade program to a carbon tax program. The one-line conclusion is that carbon taxes are cheaper and simpler, but caps give more certainty. Read more

Water – is there a role for demand management at the household level?

Lately, water shortages, and in particular rural droughts, have been in the news. While the farmers in many regions certainly are suffering, and there are definitely enough meaty economic issues around farmers’ current water allocations and associated issues, I want to concentrate on economic issues around water use by (mainly urban) households, and what role demand management should play.

For the most part, New Zealand has heaps of water. Yet in Wellington, where I live (for instance) sprinkler usage is currently rationed, and there is talk of an all out sprinkler ban if a big downpour doesn’t happen soon (the recent trickles are only holding things off for a while). That is because the main sources of drinking water in the region – the water catchment area in the rimutukas (near Wainui), the Hutt River near Kaitoke, and the Aquifers under the Hutt Valley, are all at about the limit of what they can give without incurring major damage, due to the recent low water flows.
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