Let the rant begin:
I think it's an absurd idea that things like labor are taxed at all (via income taxes), when labor is a productive activity. Meanwhile there are so many unproductive or outright harmful activities that don't get taxed nearly enough! Land speculation, carbon emissions, other forms of pollution, monopolistic control of finite natural resources, etc.
Further, even from a solely economic point of view, taxing things discourages them and distorts the market. Taxing carbon is a known way to reduce carbon emissions. Why don't we choose to distort the things we want to be distorted anyways, like pollution and rent-seeking behaviors?
Further, there is ample evidence to suggest we genuinely don't need income taxes to fully fund our government. I (and many others) are in favor of 3 main types of taxes:
- Land value taxes
- Pigouvian (or externality) taxes
- Severance taxes
Land Value Taxes
A land value tax (LVT) is a levy on the value of land without regard to buildings, personal property and other improvements. It is also known as a location value tax, a point valuation tax, a site valuation tax, split rate tax, or a site-value rating.
Land value taxes are generally favored by economists as they do not cause economic inefficiency, and reduce inequality. A land value tax is a progressive tax, in that the tax burden falls on land owners, because land ownership is correlated with wealth and income. The land value tax has been referred to as "the perfect tax" and the economic efficiency of a land value tax has been accepted since the eighteenth century. Economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have advocated this tax because it does not hurt economic activity, and encourages development without subsidies.
LVT is associated with Henry George, whose ideology became known as Georgism. George argued that taxing the land value is most logical source of public revenue because the supply of land is fixed and because public infrastructure improvements would be reflected in (and thus paid for by) increased land values.
In 1977, [Nobel prize-winning economist] Joseph Stiglitz showed that under certain conditions, beneficial investments in public goods will increase aggregate land rents by at least as much as the investments' cost. This proposition was dubbed the "Henry George theorem", as it characterizes a situation where Henry George's 'single tax' on land values, is not only efficient, it is also the only tax necessary to finance public expenditures. Henry George had famously advocated for the replacement of all other taxes with a land value tax, arguing that as the location value of land was improved by public works, its economic rent was the most logical source of public revenue.
Subsequent studies generalized the principle and found that the theorem holds even after relaxing assumptions. Studies indicate that even existing land prices, which are depressed due to the existing burden of taxation on labor and investment, are great enough to replace taxes at all levels of government.
A Pigouvian tax (also spelled Pigovian tax) is a tax on any market activity that generates negative externalities (i.e., external costs incurred by the producer that are not included in the market price). The tax is normally set by the government to correct an undesirable or inefficient market outcome (a market failure) and does so by being set equal to the external marginal cost of the negative externalities. In the presence of negative externalities, social cost includes private cost and external cost caused by negative externalities. This means the social cost of a market activity is not covered by the private cost of the activity. In such a case, the market outcome is not efficient and may lead to over-consumption of the product. Often-cited examples of negative externalities are environmental pollution and increased public healthcare costs associated with tobacco and sugary drink consumption.
A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary. By correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.
Severance taxes are taxes imposed on the removal of natural resources within a taxing jurisdiction. Severance taxes are most commonly imposed in oil producing states within the United States. Resources that typically incur severance taxes when extracted include oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, and timber. Some jurisdictions use other terms like gross production tax.
The key to Norway’s success in oil exploitation has been the special regime of ownership rights which apply to extraction: the severance tax takes most of those rents, meaning that the people of Norway are the primary beneficiaries of the country’s petroleum wealth. Instead of privatizing the resource rents provided by access to oil, companies make their returns off of the extraction and transportation of the oil, incentivizing them to develop the most efficient technologies and processes rather than simply collecting the resource rents. Exploration and development is subsidized by the Norwegian government in order to maximize the amount of resource rents that can be taxed by the state, while also promoting a highly competitive environment free of the corruption and stagnation that afflicts state-controlled oil companies.
Specifically, I suggest that much of the increase in inequality is associated with the growth in rents — including land and exploitation rents (e.g., arising from monopoly power and political influence).