The Pigou-Brennan-Buchanan club

Greg Mankiw asks for members in the Pigou club and lists a growing and illustrious set of people.  I’ll opt in, though I would wish to change the name of the club.  Geoff Brennan and James Buchanan, in their The Power to Tax, wrote one of the best and most important books on public finance in the twentieth century.  Their message is simple: if you don’t always trust government, beware of "efficient taxes."  Those same taxes will make it easier for government to extract excess revenue from the population.  For instance lump sum taxation is not in every way a dream come true.  It can turn into outright confiscation beyond reasonable levels.

I’ll fess up to the following.  We have been fiscally irresponsible and must pay the bills.  Global warming is a major problem and a carbon tax is at least possibly a partial solution.  So the Brennan and Buchanan point, circa USA 2006, is less relevant than at many other times or in many other places.  But hey, clubs are universal and forever and forever (at least my treehouse club was, when I was six).  I’ll join, but I suspect Greg would not be fully on board with Pigou’s politics.  There is a reason why Pigou taxes come from…Pigou.  That same reason is why the concept should be broadened just a wee bit…


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