…I’d like to direct you to a particularly good episode of my favorite podcast, Vox’s The Weeds. They discuss land taxes, soda taxes, and carbon taxes, and regrettably find themselves unable to produce a list of three things without concluding “…oh my!” One day some brave soul will figure out how to do that, but that day is not yet.
As with every episode of The Weeds, I agree with a lot, want to argue with some, and wish they had time to dive more into all. The discussion of Henry George‘s single tax is very good, and really had my head spinning. The soda-tax stuff was interesting, though the “paternalism” framing is less productive than they think it is. It’s “paternalistic” when the government tries to tell you what to do via tax policy; it’s not paternalistic when cigarette companies tell you what to do via advertising. I’d like to dispense with this word altogether. For similar reasons, actually, I’d like to dispense with “unintended consequences”. This term is used as a catch-all by which government policies are rejected with a shrug: “We’d love the government to do x, but, y’know, unintended consequences.” There are unintended consequences to everything; why single out unintended consequences from what the government does on our behalf?
One of these days I will review Henry George properly. I’ve just gone back and reread a lot of the passages I highlighted from Progress and Poverty, and I’m reminded both of how brilliant it is and how crankish. Definitely worth reading, thinking about, and reviewing.