Tag Archives: Cato Institute

Taxing People to Advocate for Taxing People

Back in April I blogged on a CDC program that seemed to be using taxpayer dollars to fund lobbying for more taxes. In his column this week, George Will picks up on the same program and offers a few more details. Here is a snippet:

In Cook County, Ill., according to an official report, recipients using some of a $16 million CDC grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.”

Along the way, Will also highlights some excellent work coauthored by my colleague Sherzod Abdukadirov. Leaving legality aside, Will asks, “is such “nutrition activism” effective?”

Not according to Michael L. Marlow, economics professor at California Polytechnic State University, and Sherzod Abdukadirov of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Writing in Regulation (“Can Behavioral Economics Combat Obesity?”), a quarterly publication of the libertarian Cato Institute, they powerfully question the assumptions underlying paternalistic policies such as using taxes to nudge individuals to make consumption choices that serve their real but unrecognized interests — e.g., drinking fewer SSBs.


Debt Debate at Cato

This Thursday at 6:30 PM at the Cato Institute, I’ll be discussing the national debt and its impact on the “millennial generation.”  My
co-discussants are Megan McArdle of the Atlantic and Matt Yglesias of the Center for American ProgressDan Mitchell of Cato will moderate.

It should be a fun discussion and I plan to learn a great deal from the others.  Here is the teaser from Cato:

How will mounting deficits impact today’s young people in the years to come? Some argue that government spending is necessary to ensure the future by providing school loans, unemployment insurance, infrastructure investments, and other social provisions. Others hold that government spending cripples the future due to massive welfare commitments, misaligned economic incentives, and polluted market signals.

Here is the address:

The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

If you can’t make it in person, you can watch it on line.  Did I mention it was non-priced?

New State Data

It has been a big week for those who are interested in understanding why some states prosper and others stagnate. Lots of new data to chew on: 

1.  First, there is new data on poverty levels by state. Click on this map, courtesy of Catherine Rampell, writing at Economix, to see the details:

2.  The Census Bureau has issued new data on state and local taxes.  According to the Wall Street Journal, aggregate state and local tax revenue is up 1.7 percent. 

3.  Lastly, the Cato Institute has issued its fiscal report card on America’s governors. Here are the “A”s:

…and the “F”s:

Seasteading, Tiebout, and Federalism

One of the most interesting things about state and local policy research is that localities are engaged in (admittedly imperfect) competition with one another. The Tiebout hypothesis, proffered by Charles Tiebout in his famous article “A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures,” suggests that in federal systems state and local governments compete with one another: if you don’t like the public services provided by your town or state, you can move to another one that provides a basket of public goods and services (and tax structures) more to your liking. People vote not only with ballots but with their feet.

It raises interesting questions for the future of the Tiebout model that sovereign nations may be forced at some point in the not-too-distant future to compete more for their citizens’ fealty.

The Seasteading Institute has been getting some significant attention recently, with a write-up in Wired magazine and an event next week at the Cato Institute. (The executive director of the Institute, Patri Friedman, will be speaking; Patri is the son of libertarian thinker David Friedman and grandson of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, thus I suspect making the Friedmans the first family to have three generations speak at Cato.) The Institute proposes, in short, that in the near future it will be possible to create communities on the seas that are not the province of any (currently existing) sovereign country. (More on seasteading from Tim Lee at ArsTechnica.)

This has radical implications for governance and federalism. In our future life aquatic, to what extent will the Tiebout model begin to apply to nation-states? Will seasteading force countries to relax their own immigration standards? Will this increase the quality of national governments as competition increases?

Of course it’s impossible to predict, but it has interesting ramifications for the future of research on federalism and public policy.