Monday, February 14, 2011

The political hexagon

Scott Sumner has a nice post up showing an alternative illustration of the modern political spectrum. The claim seems to be that his approach is more nuanced and interesting than the quadrant graph commonly beloved by libertarians.

It's certainly interesting, and I do approve of any attempts to move beyond traditional political typologies. I suspect I'm either a pragmatic libertarian or a dogmatic libertarian on his scale; I'd be curious to understand what he sees as the dividing lines. That is, I have as much fun as the next girl working out what the ideal libertarian society ought to look like over a drink or two. But on the (admittedly rare) occasions that I actually try to be serious, I think I probably sound a lot more pragmatic.

At the same time, I'm not sure that I agree with Sumner's analysis. I'm with him all the way on five of his six policy priorities. (I don't actually know anything about taxes on capital vs. progressive consumption taxes. It's altogether possible that I'd agree with him if I actually had any idea what he was talking about. But I don't, so I'm refraining from saying anything.) But I don't know that most of the world's ignoring this results from actual corruption or a feeling of being beholden to interest groups. The diehard social conservatives of my acquaintance are absolutely sincere in their belief that abortion and homosexuality are bad for society. I think they're wrong on the facts on these two particular issues, but I don't actually see how taking these particular positions creates rent-seeking opportunities for them. Ditto for the Democratic groups who take the reverse stances. Their ideals are different from mine, but I don't really see how they're fundamentally any less idealistic.

1 comment:

  1. In case you're interested, here are some recommendations for readings on the income vs. consumption tax debate (the only difference between an income and consumption tax is that the former taxes savings [i.e. "capital income"] while the latter does not). The two classic law review articles on income vs. consumption taxation are:

    William D. Andrews, A Consumption-Type or Cash Flow Personal Income Tax, 87 Harv. L. Rev. 1113 (1974). (pro-consumption tax)

    Alvin C. Warren, Would a Consumption Tax be Fairer than an Income Tax?, 89 Yale L.J. 1081 (1980). (pro-income tax)

    Also, a more recent (and more technical but high quality) article is: Joseph Bankman & David A. Weisbach, The Superiority of an Ideal Consumption Tax Over an Ideal Income Tax, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 1413 (2005). AEI put out a book in 2005 with many different perspectives on the income vs. consumption tax issue that is pretty good and very accessible. It is called "Toward Fundamental Tax Reform" and edited by Alan Auerbach & Kevin Hassett. You can download it here: