Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tax reform: Politics has more weight than Economics

One of the great frustration as an economist is to know what is best and being told it is "politically unfeasible." And why is it typically unfeasible? Because the "right" people do not like it, because it sounds complicated, and because populists would have a feast opposing it, or a combination of the three. How much is this frustration really justified?

Micael Castanheira, Gaëtan Nicodème and Paola Profeta look at the reform of labor income taxation in Europe and find that it is very consistent with the theory that politics shapes taxes more than economists. Indeed, the size of the ruling party or coalition is the main factor: instead of a compromise, which would likely be close to the outcome a social planner to choose, the rulers select what is best for them without regard for the others, or just enough regard to prevent a revolt (that is my interpretation). And then people blame economists when things do not go right.

I'll go weep in a corner now.

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