Into the Abyss: James David Nicoll on Heinlein's "Starship Troopers": Weekend Reading

This has become a classic for all wishing to think clearly about progressive income taxation. Note that their conclusions in favor of a high top marginal rate do rest on strong and proper state actions to close loopholes and shut down tax havens:

Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Stefanie Stantcheva (2011): Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities: "A model where top incomes respond to marginal tax rates through... (1) the standard supply-side channel... the tax avoidance channel, [and] (3) the compensation-bargaining channel through efforts in influencing own-pay setting.... The first elasticity (supply side) is the sole real factor limiting optimal top tax rates. The optimal tax system should be designed to minimize the second elasticity (avoidance) through tax enforcement and tax neutrality... in which case the second elasticity becomes irrelevant. The optimal top tax rate increases with the third elasticity (bargaining) as bargaining efforts are zero-sum in aggregate..... There is a strong correlation between cuts in top tax rates and increases in top 1% income shares since 1975, implying that the overall elasticity is large. But top income share increases have not translated into higher economic growth, consistent with the zero-sum bargaining model. This suggests that the first elasticity is modest in size and that the overall effect comes mostly from the third elasticity. Consequently, socially optimal top tax rates might possibly be much higher than what is commonly assumed...


#noted

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