I’ve had a lot of arguments with people about taxes in the past several days. What surprised me is how sure everyone is of their position. There are three broad options I hear:
- Increase taxes on just the very rich (with some dollar amount defining the threshold for the “very rich” label)
- Increase taxes on everyone
- Decrease taxes on everyone
And everyone provides basic arguments in support of each of these policies that boil down to the trade-off between freedom and equality.
What I think is missing is the question of absolute values. There are optimal tax policies for each basic political view. It’s impossible to know exactly what that policy is, but it’s probably not either of the extremes of (1) tax 100% of all income or (2) tax 0% of all income. So the question when someone wants to decrease taxes is not just “Why?” but “How much and why?”. It seems that few people have a good answer for “how much” except by referencing a historical value along with a questionable claim that this value led to some positive outcome.