Monday, February 18, 2019
Goldburn P. Maynard Jr. (Louisville) presents Legislating Tax Cuts With Tall Tales at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Workshop Series hosted by Dorothy Brown and Paul Caron and funded in part by a generous gift from Scott Racine:
Part I provides a brief introduction to the work of philosophers Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel on everyday libertarianism. This part shows how the narratives of hard work and just desert along with stories of government oppression have been used to support policies that harm those who vote against them. System Justification Theory helps to explain the counterintuitive notion that the disadvantaged have a need to defend the status quo.
Part II proceeds by exploring three tax reform battles from different decades: 1986, 2001, 2017. By comparing the three, this part shows that there was a narrative element to each. Yet, the importance of data decreased across each tax fight. In 1986 there was a genuine commitment to thorough data collection. By 2017, reformers were dodging the data and questioning its effectiveness.
Part III analyzes two of the factors that make the 2017 tax reform different: (1) extreme polarization and (2) today’s ideas industry. Both of these phenomena together make even the most consensus driven data questionable by a considerable number of the populace. This is only exacerbated by the complexity of tax policy, which is often counterintuitive. Thus, making it easier to exploit misunderstandings.
Part IV explores two possible future directions given the current landscape. First, it considers attempts to confront and undermine simplistic hard work narratives. I use the example of Chris Hughes’ recent book as well as promising signs from the 2017 tax reform battle. The second possible way forward is to more explicitly discuss tax policy as part of our society’s redistributive apparatus. The open discussions around universal basic income provide some hope that we are moving in that direction.
Update: Post-presentation lunch: