Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Public Goods Redux: Even Bill Sizemore Recognizes a Role for Government

This story has been getting a lot of circulation: Bill Sizemore finally realizes that taxes and government services are connected. Brings me back to something I ruminated about around the election: what is the proper extent of government involvement in society? These questions are never easy, but relentless cries of "taxes must be cut" without any discussion of what programs are unnecessary or specific examples of waste are destructive because they avoid asking the hard questions. As an economist I believe very strongly in incentives and I also believe that taxes are distortionary and often create disincentives to do things we want more of in society. But I understand market failures and the limits of private markets providing public goods as well. To this end, I often find myself arguing with those on the left about the former and with those on the right about the latter. What I hope is that we can get back to a place where left and right can talk to each other about these issues directly. What I think is necessary for this to happen is a good understanding of economics. So contrary to the opinion of some other economists, I think more economic knowledge is actually a good thing for society. Thus this blog. You are all welcome.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

The loss of federal timber payments is going to hurt the finances of many rural Oregon counties very badly.

The idea of higher taxes seems palatable if you're faced with the prospect of more crime due to reduced patrols.

However, expenditures will also have to be cut for less visible services, such as county public health services, and certain services for poorer older / disabled people.

There's likely to be less broad support for these relatively 'invisible' services.