The new Christopher Buckley novel Boomsday concerns a blogger — Cassandra — who proposes that a cash-strapped, demographically-burdened society pay old people to do themselves in.  The elderly are to kill themselves for tax breaks.  In Swiftian fashion we can improve this idea by convexifying the choice.  Let’s make it a risk and subsidize sky-diving for the non-working elderly. 

There are two positive externalities from the resulting deaths; first, a bequest of material wealth passes to other individuals, second, the deadweight loss of taxation falls.  The negative externality from the death falls upon other family members and friends; whether the would-be victim internalized those costs in the first place is difficult to calculate.  Have I mentioned that economics has few good ways of modeling two-way altruism and keeping the standard welfare theorems intact?  Distribution and efficiency are no longer separate, but hey that’s the real world.

Here is a New York Times review.  Buckley is one of the most entertaining public speakers I have heard, hire or go hear him if you can.


Comments for this post are closed