Category Archives: Taxes

One Lesson NOT to Take from France’s “Yellow Vest” Protests

One narrative about the Yellow Vest protests in France is that politicians should not adopt energy taxes to change behaviors that lead to climate change.  In this telling, the political costs of wise energy policy are too high.  This is an overly simple reading of the French experience and is a convenient excuse for those […]

Your Tax Dollars at Work

We know when it is a Congressional election year.  Like clockwork, in the mail arrives a letter from Maine Second District Representative Bruce Poliquin.  The envelope boldly declares: “Public Document  Official Business.” At first the letter is a puzzle.  What “official business” do we have with this office? Then we remember.  Mr. Poliquin uses the […]

Disdain for the Future

I first encountered the idea that the future was something one could study in 1971 from historian Roger Howell Jr.  In one way or another, thinking about the future informed much that I have written about since, including here in Stirring the Pot. In my way of thinking about the future, I believe there should […]

Question 1: Rent Seeking Run Amok

Mailboxes are flooded with direct mail fliers.  The roadsides are littered with plastic signs.  We are admonished to Vote Yes On Question 1 on November 7.  This is one of the clearest examples of rent seeking behavior I have ever seen.  It is text book quality. Rent seeking occurs when an economic actor, in this […]

Is the U.S. Economy One Big Ponzi Scheme?

When I was teaching, I used to joke with students that my classes were particularly demanding because I wanted to be sure they would succeed in the real world so that they could pay for my Social Security checks.  Economists are supposed to believe that self interest is the dominant human motivator. I was only […]

What’s Wrong With This Story?

The narrative goes something like this: The Maine Legislature and Governor require all Maine schools to provide certain “essential” services.  This is out of a sense of fairness for all Maine school children, wherever they may live.  Everyone is entitled to a minimum education. Many localities struggle to pay the costs of these minimum services […]

Political Courage and Cowardice on Taxes

The trouble with taxes is that no one likes to pay them.  We want the services of government (good roads, public schools, national defense, a functioning court system, etc.) but would rather that someone else pay for these things.  Yet taxation is necessary in modern society.  Taxes are needed to fund what economists call public […]

Be Happy You Didn’t Live in 1870

Robert Gordon’s 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth is a comprehensive history of “the U.S. standard of living since the civil war.”  Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, details changes in consumption of food, clothing, shelter, and transport during a period when Americans experienced unprecedented improvement in quality of life.  From brutally difficult, […]