Friday, January 12, 2007
Greg Mankiw Swings and Misses
Above find Dr. Mankiw's inaugural response to CaptiousNut!!!
That is in fact a truncation of my comment above the vaunted professor's. First read his original blog post - Pigovian Questions. Here is my comment in its entirety,
"all taxes are bad...is too common"???
Anyone that thinks that is a simpleton?
Greg tries to paint himself as the realist which I find quite ironic. The reality is that taxes have always been an end-around for more and bigger government.
In theory, one tax raise could be offset with a decrease elsewhere. But I thought Greg was trying to be realistic - when has this ever happened?
I don't buy his "there will be taxes...so we should use the least bad ones" excuse. Nor do I buy his profession that he thinks government spending is too high. If he had just one-tenth as many "cut the government down to the bone" posts as he had Pigou Club posts it'd be more credible. As it stands, his blog can be summed up as just one big ad for gasoline taxes, for the abolition of Red State agricultural subsidies, and an unending humoring of the "inequality" debate. Can you say "class warfare"?
The empirical, real-world externalities of socialism are far worse than the hypothetical externalities of carbon emissions.
I make no distinction between socialists and those that harbor them - unwittingly or not.
As of yet, no one has ever answered my question from way back:
Why not limit cars to 16 mpg instead of a gasoline tax?
The background of this is of course Greg's Wall Street Journal editorial that proposed to add a $1 tax to every gallon of gasoline sold (on top of the current 50 cent burden). He's been on this long crusade to get politicians, economists, and other pinheads to join this "Pigou Club". This nonsense is little more than his transparent job audition for a future tax-raising Democratic Administration. Click here to read his editorial. And this link will give you more context if desired.
My response to Dr. Mankiw's mistake,
For you Morons, I suggested banning Yugos and Camrys NOT Hummers and 10 mile per gallon clunkers, as Mankiw and one of his toadies mistakenly inferred. A population driving Chevy Suburbans would drive a heck of a lot less, ergo there'd be less "congestion".
Note that I eschewed all acerbity in my response to Mankiw even though he was DEAD WRONG and called me "Mr. Nut". His larger portfolio of folly is my concern, not a single overly-Captious misread.
But his response did reveal a couple of things. First it demonstrated his latent, but predictable, hostility towards me. I took a screenshot of the comment thread immediately for fear that he'd erase his embarrassing jab.
It also showed that he's both tunnel-visioned and tone deaf regarding the gasoline tax. I have proposed my ingenious solution to congestion on his blog more than a few times, so he should have been aware of my idea. Given such an awareness, he wouldn't have misread my latest comment. Mankiw is no dummy. He certainly has the capacity to understand my suggestion BUT it's been neutered by his both his animosity towards me and the self-righteousness of his own crusade. He's kind of like Jeff Jarvis with his Dell Hell.
Unshaken and unapologetic, Mankiw and one of his fawning minions vainly try to attack my proposal. A few more comments were exchanged; the noble professor who called me "Mr. Nut" actually lectures me on civility; and I smack them both down in a rousing grand finale.
Without directing it at anyone in particular, there is an expression, “never argue with a fool because others may not know the difference”. In that vein, I refuse to be sucked too far into debating the Pigou Manifesto, a foolish bricolage complaint. To say that my proposal would not reduce pollution, a Pigovian aim, is fatuous at best. As more than a few people have pointed out, a Pigou gas tax wouldn’t even necessarily accomplish what it purports to do. Pacify the Mid-East? Balance the budget? Reduce congestion? Save the environment? Give me a break.
Pigou Club members demand to be judged by their “aims” rather than their results. Just like all of the other socialists!
By definition, no practical, narrow solution can compete with a fantastic panacea. The Pigou gas tax is a great example of why the term panacea is mostly uttered sarcastically. The criticism of my idea is quite analogous to critics of securing the southern border who claim it’s not a “comprehensive solution” for immigration when in fact it doesn't purport to be one.
If a higher gas tax is supposed to reduce pollution, then why are emissions growing 5.4% in Western Europe and 4.7% in the U.S.? (since Kyoto no less)
Europe proves incontrovertibly that consumers are immune to a gas tax so long as little cars are legal. So, unlike my proposal, a gas tax makes no salient into congestion. By the way, for those of you with “global warming” phantoms dancing in your heads, the rotten fruit of congestion is idling, no friend of Mother Nature either. Furthermore, the fewer gallons consumed in America due to a $1 gas tax will just be burned by Third World rickshaws without catalytic converters. Al Gore’s Earth will still be doomed with or without a gas tax. Shouldn’t the inevitable energy consumption take place here, where emission standards are better?
Like I said above, I don’t want to get sucked too far into this morass of conjecture. There is a tradeoff between congestion and fuel efficiency and it’s ill met by a gas tax. My proposal better attacks congestion and may increase emissions slightly in the short term. I could care less about that but there are many feasible offsets for those that care. Massachusetts could take many cars off the road and reduce overall emissions if it: deregulated taxis, lowered the cost of mass transit, allowed car insurance companies to charge urban drivers and younger drivers higher premiums, built high rises near train stations, and modernized its toll booth collections. There may be a ton of Priuses in the Bay State and no shortage of Earth-huggers, but they are all allied politically with the opponents of my emissions offsets. Go figure.
Other states and particularly congestion-ridden cities could take thousands of uninsured drivers of the roads. BUT that might be seen as discriminatory racial profiling in some circles. Needless to say, the opponents of this offset also vote with the global warming chorus.
Taking a ton of cars off the road entirely would reduce congestion emissions for the rest of us. In the longer term, driving Chevy Suburbans would force everyone to make major lifestyle changes. People would live closer to work, there’d be more carpooling, and overall drivers would eliminate so many frivolous car trips. I think once people get a whiff of telecommuting and the facility of online ordering, not only will they’ll never go back, they’ll strive to drive even less and emissions would decrease. I’d be quite surprised if Moffatt or anyone else possessed a chart of price elasticities that could predict the future interplay of so many dynamic variables. I am sure 200 years ago no one could envision horse transportation usage dropping 100% either. When they banned smoking in public places critics said no one would quit, they’d just smoke more at home. At first nobody quit, but over time people started dropping the nasty habit in droves.
Of course my idea won’t raise tax revenue but that’s kind of the whole point. I just can’t find the law stating new revenue must be found before old revenue is eliminated. But since I am not angling for a policy job maybe it’s all beyond my ken.