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  1. Here is yet another paper computing “optimal” top marginal income tax rates. As I’ve said a zillion times, the term “optimal” implies a goal. And that goal is obviously not universally shared. Let me ask rhetorically, is the goal of a tax system to maximize revenues to the government? Now this paper actually comes up with a goal of maximizing social welfare, which is fancy econospeak for efficiency. Whether they are assuming magic political beans to get there I’ll leave for curious readers to decide.
  2. Traffic tickets DO seem to promote roadway safety. That one surprised me given my priors.
  3. Does gun ownership prevent violent crime? This is another paper to be added to the literature. Their answer: not only does it not prevent violent crime (among strangers) but it seems to make violence with non-strangers more likely. This one IS in alignment with my priors.
  4. This paper suggests that negative and smear political campaigning have NOT undermined public trust in government. That finding is all the more interesting given the general high levels of mistrust we DO have. So what is the reason? Who knows, I’m not interested in speculating now, but one consequence of that is that it seems people are far more resistant to public health initiatives than in the past, a perhaps frightening outcome? Or not? Again, I have my “theories” but they’re only worth discussing over beer.
  5. Here is another topic I am sympathetic with the left on: attempts to reduce voter fraud. As you know, there is a debate about voter ID laws and they are nominally instituted to make sure the people that DO vote are actually people that are eligible to vote. Now, as with much of the world today, the REAL arguments here are actually about something else. I personally do not have confidence that our elections are not rigged, nor do I really care that much at our current margins. However, THIS paper makes a VERY important point – that efforts to “do the right thing” and limit voter fraud inevitably have the unintended consequence of limiting access to voting by legitimate and eligible voters. Great! So now I look forward to the swarm of papers showing, conclusively, that doing something to regulate the environment or workplace or educational sectors MAY in fact promote more of the things you SAY you want, but also comes at a cost, perhaps even of a cleaner environment elsewhere, or safer or fairer workplace elsewhere. After all, this phenomenon can’t just ne limited to voting, right?
  6. You become less religious after your first experience with intercourse. I wish the same result applied to those experience bad economic policy for the first time. I think people become more “religious” after their preferred policies fail. Why the difference?

One Response to “Monday Research Roundup”

  1. Harry says:

    Thanks, WC, for your roundup of noteworthy impenetrable prose.

    On #1, you are right that the point of taxation is not to maximize the revenue to the government, unless one is Caesar, and even then you have to beware of Brutus.

    But this paper says one maximizes revenue at a 90% marginal rate for the top bracket, if I read the dense gobbledegook correctly. That is a rate we did see back during the Eisenhower years, but I know of nobody since who would say a 90% rate would be right, even if one’s objective were to squeeze the maximum from “the rich”. That is a truly screwy idea.

    So here is another example of theory, no doubt supported by inscrutable models, generating an absurd result, which, if followed to its logical end, would lead to disastrous consequences for us all.

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