TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Griffith Presents Progressive Taxation and Happiness Today at NYU

Griffith Nyu_2Thomas D. Griffith (USC) presents Progressive Happiness and Taxation today at NYU as part of its Colloquium on Tax Policy and Public Finance series.  Here is the abstract:

This Article explores the optimal level of income redistribution by examining the potential welfare gains from redistributive tax and spending policies. Drawing on recent research on human happiness, this Article argues that while wealthy nations are generally happier than their poorer counterparts, neither national nor individual economic growth appear to have an appreciable impact on the subjective well-being of the citizens of relatively wealthy nations. Significant causes of this finding include the problem of rivalry—that increases in the income of some depress the happiness of others—and the fact that individuals overestimate the degree to which additional consumption will improve their happiness. Studies show the level of inequality in a society also may affect levels of happiness. Ultimately, happiness research is consistent with the strongest justification for adopting a progressive tax structure— income has declining marginal utility thus redistribution can increase total welfare in a society.

The Colloquium will be held in Room 202 of Vanderbilt Hall from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. EST.  Although the public is invited to attend, due to heightened security throughout NYU Law, please contact Haydee Torres so she can provide the Guard's desk with your name.

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The dilemma: steeply progressive rates make me happy because it increases the value (and presumably the demand) for tax consulting services. Yet it also means I keep less of what I earn. I'm not sure I achieve marginal happiness that way.

Posted by: Joe Kristan | Jan 20, 2005 12:50:17 PM