Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No, don't tax tall people

Greg Mankiw proposes a tax on tall people. It's actually more logical than you think, and his arguments make you think about equality and taxes in a new light.

That is where taxing height comes in. Mr. Mankiw and Mr. Weinzierl cite their own and others' research that there is a strong correlation between height and income. By their calculations, a tall person (six feet or higher) earns on average 16% more than a short person (five foot nine or less). They cite two competing explanations: early in life height may confer qualities, such as self-esteem, that lead to greater success in the work force. Alternatively, perhaps height and smarts both result from superior prenatal and early childhood nutrition and care. Either way, the authors argue that according to theory height is a great criterion for income redistribution: tax tall people more and give the money to short people.

The beauty of this, the authors note, is that a tall person isn't going to change his height no matter how much he is taxed, and can't do much to hide his height, either. That makes a height tax highly efficient: it doesn't alter the behavior of the person being taxed.

Considering I'm 5 inches taller than the minimum to be a tall person, I hope this doesn't become reality.

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