Sunday, April 08, 2007

Taxing happiness

In what might very well be the most sinister sentence I've read in years, Chris Dillow writes:

If married people are much happier than singletons, there's a case for taxing them more heavily - because doing so would promote equality of well-being.
Just follow that principle through in your head for a while - the state actively and deliberately penalising happiness.

In the end, Dillow concludes:
... the state shouldn't aim at maximizing happiness at all.
This is more sensible. But there is a big difference between seeking to maximise happiness or, specifically in this argument, granting tax incentives for marriage, and actually disincentivising or penalising situations that are known to create happiness.

So what is the case for "promot[ing] equality of well being"? It's welfare egalitarianism:
The ideal of equality of welfare holds that it is desirable that the amount of human good gained by each person for herself (and by others for her) over the course of her life should be the same.
In other words, equality of outcome.

Pol Pot would agree.
Out of a population of approximately 8 million, Pol Pot's regime exterminated one quarter, or almost 2 million people. The Khmer Rouge targeted Buddhist monks, Western-educated intellectuals, educated people in general, people who had contact with Western countries, people who appeared to be intelligent (for example, individuals with glasses)...
That certainly levelled the playing field.

Or, perhaps one ought to say, the killing field.

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