Wednesday, March 6, 2013
In Real Freedom for All, Philippe Van Parijs advocates a tax on wages. Jobs, he contends, constitute a scarce resource that -- like inherited wealth -- should be taxed in order to fund the highest possible basic income. The same logic, it would seem, could justify taxing other scarce goods -- like marriage partners. Van Parijs considers the analogy and concludes that marriage partners might indeed be sufficiently scarce to warrant taxation. But Van Parijs stops short of proposing a tax on marriage.
This essay considers the possibility of a marriage tax. I conclude that marriage partners are not scarce in principle: that is, it is possible to craft first-best arrangements that guarantee everyone a fair chance to marry. But, given the legal and social conditions that today (unjustly) deny some the legal rights and economic resources they need to marry, a tax on those who can and do marry has some appeal.