Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Comeback for Pigou?

In the past few days, I have run across a couple of articles (here and here), admittedly in relatively minor places, arguing for higher Pigovian taxes, such as a tax on gasoline or a tax on carbon. As all ec 10 students know, Pigovian taxes both produce government revenue and correct a market failure arising from an externality like pollution. I have long thought that Pigovian taxes are underused.

How about this for a political compromise?

The Democrats say they want more environmental protection. The Republicans say they want to make permanent the recent cuts in income, dividend, and estate taxes. Everyone says they want a smaller budget deficit. We can achieve all of these objectives by agreeing to higher Pigovian taxes, such as taxes on gasoline or carbon. The Republicans concede that government revenue will be higher than it is under the President's proposed budget, and the Democrats concede that the President's tax cuts on income, dividends, and estates will be permanent.

Please don't post a comment saying how politically naive this is. I know it is. But I bet I could convince a majority of the American Economic Association to sign on!