Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Did You Expect?

It seems to me that you are making the error that was the norm in textbooks and the profession fifty years ago, before public choice theory. You are evaluating proposals for government policy on the basis of what they could do if optimally implemented not on what one can expect them to do given the incentives of the people making the decisions—what used to be referred to as the philosopher king model of government. It makes no more sense than evaluating the market alternative on the assumption that all the decision makers in that case will act to maximize social welfare rather than in their own interest. The question is not whether an optimal carbon tax designed and enforced by wise and benevolent economists would produce net benefits—very likely it would. It's whether passing a carbon tax designed and implemented as we can best expect it to be would produce net benefits.

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