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Greg Mankiw Needs Slaves for His Gas Taxes

Via Reuters, Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday slammed as bad idea:

"Score one for Obama," wrote Greg Mankiw, a former chairman of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. "In light of the side effects associated with driving ... gasoline taxes should be higher than they are, not lower."

Should the ellipsis concern you about missing context, read his Pigou Club Manifesto. Mankiw not only likes gas taxes, he wants to spike them an additional dollar to save the environment, reduce traffic, regulate the auto industry, dump more money into the Treasury, burden producers in foreign nations, maybe slightly kinda sorta ever-so-gently get the state more reliant on consumption taxes rather than income taxes, and end our interventionism overseas. He concludes by making it sound like we've got it easy, since even after a buck increase we'd still be paying less than the poor bastards in England. It's a fucking miracle just begging to be implemented as objective, unbiased, impersonal economic policy! Government at its finest!

Of course, he's a decent guy and notes that "higher gas taxes are unattractive."

Sure, paying an additional amount determined arbitrarily by politicians and value-free economists above and beyond the legitimate market price of a good I depend on could be called aesthetically unpleasant. I'd rather call it vicious stupidity.

This is the number one reason why I'm hesitant to get into economics as a profession and as a line of college study. It's all about figuring out which group of people to fuck over in order to - in theory - marginally improve the lives of 50.1+% of everyone else. It seems nearly the entire industry has signed on to coercive social engineering. If the demand for fuel is generally inelastic and doesn't respond significantly to price increases, then the only way to force consumers to consume less fuel is a BIG increase. It can't be too gradual otherwise we'll just absorb and adapt to it and hum along. No, to be effective it has to sting, it has to hurt.

How is that anything less than a completely gawddamn rotten thing to desire?

No, I don't support McCain's or Clinton's gas tax holiday idea. It doesn't go far enough. For one thing, Clinton wants to slap a windfall profits tax on oil companies to make up the "lost" revenue.

I don't want gasoline and diesel taxes eliminated because I want a temporary blip upwards in disposable income (a blip that Mankiw and other economists rightly question as unlikely). I want them abolished because they are taxes and therefore just another form of institutionalized theft. Just because the robbery happens at the business level doesn't mean it loses its essential character. Just because your heart bleeds for clean air, shorter commutes, and peace overseas doesn't make the theft right.

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