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Taxing the tall

One of the 70 ideas covered by The New York Times Magazine "Year In Ideas" is Mankiw & Weinzierl’s intentionally quirky proposal of taxing tall people, based on the empirical distribution of height and wages.

The topic has attracted lots of attention from some famous bloggers, including tall political scientist David Park, tall economist Robin Hansen, and not-so-tall political scientists/statistician Andrew Gelman.

All share the same opinion that the tax is “wacky," but Andrew’s argument is most interesting to me. In the first place, he points out that height isn't actually correlated very much with income -- together, height and sex predict earnings with an R-squared of only 9%. More importantly, however, it is the big “Huh" that he makes towards Mankiw and Weinzierl’s argument that height should not be taxed as it is a ‘justly acquired endowment.’

“... who ever said that you can only tax something that was ‘unjustly wrestled from someone else’" Even if we can imagine a society with on unjust wrestling at all, the tax money needs to come from somewhere, he argues.

The concluding remarks: “Maybe this is a difference between how economists and political scientists view the world. Mankiw and Weinzierl seem to view taxes as a way to punish people, whereas I see taxes as a way to raise money"


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