Justifying Progressive Tax Rates

by Mike Kimel

Justifying Progressive Tax Rates
Cross posted at the Presimetrics blog.

The Atlantic’s website carries a blog by a conservative/libertarian who writes very well on a wide variety of topics, and who sometimes covers economic issues with great insight. Of course, I’m talking about Andrew Sullivan. (What, you didn’t think… of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.)

A smart writer – even one you don’t always agree with – also has smart readers. (Of course, the flip side is that a clueless writer who gets the facts wrong all the time also has clueless readers who get the facts wrong all the time.) Here’s a bit of a letter one of Sullivan’s readers readers sent him, reproduced on Sullivan’s blog:

I’m a bit late with this, but I wanted to respond to your post yesterday in which you wrote:

“To many on the right, this inequality is a non-issue, and in an abstract sense, I agree. Penalizing people for their success does not help the less successful.”

Let’s look at this issue another way: A homeowner who owns a $1 million home will pay more for insurance than will the owner of a $200,000 home. The insurer is not penalizing the first homeowner for his success. The first homeowner simply has more to lose and therefore pays more. If you believe the core function of government is to provide a stable environment (physical, financial, legal, social) in which society can flourish, the wealthy have more to lose from government’s absence. Penalizing the successful wouldn’t help anyone. Underwriting the successful costs money.

Later in the post, Sullivan goes on to inadvertently disrespect Hauser’s Law. Sullivan’s blog is not an “econ blog” but I think it has better economic insights than a lot of blogs that are, even if I often disagree with his politics.