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Decision Time in the South Pacific: Income Tax or Mitchell’s Golden Rule?

Can you identify the nation with the world’s 7th-friendliest tax system according to the Index of Economic Freedom? Don’t know the answer? Well, here’s a hint. If you don’t count Middle Eastern nations that finance their governments with oil money, this is the nation that is in second place, behind only the Bahamas. Still don’t […]

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Analysis of Italy’s 2016 Referendum: Beyond the Euro and the E.U.

The predominate axis of analysis in the wake of the Italian referendum in early December, 2016 centered on the euro, the federal currency of the European Union. For example, an article in The Wall Street Journal begins with the following: “Sunday’s referendum vote in Italy reinforced a widening split between the economics needed to sustain Europe’s common currency and the continent’s rising tide of populism.”[1]At the time, however, the populism in the E.U.’s states had more to do with immigration than the federal currency. Even so, analysts predicted that Italian parties antagonistic to the currency could be expected to benefit. Stephen Gallo at BMO Financial Group went so far as to claim, “Eurozone breakup risks are rising,” given “the political currents at work in the Eurozone.”[2]Although he makes a good observation in noting the lack of a political will in the States “to finish building the missing architecture of the single currency area”—implying that the underpinnings of the euro were inherently unstable—he overlooked the matter of the distribution of wealth, and in particular the element of fairness, which I submit is salient in the Italians’ ‘No’ vote as well as in the rising anti-establishment, or shall we say, anti-elite, populism of the day.
The full essay is at “Italy’s Referendum.”


1. Stephen Fidler, “Italy’s ‘No’ Opens Harrowing Year for EU,” The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016.

2. Jon Sindreu, “Euro Falls as Italian Reject Renzi’s Changes,” The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2016.

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The Growing Need for Trump’s Proposed 15 percent Corporate Tax Rate

There are several features of President-Elect Trump’s tax plan that are worthy of praise, including death tax repeal, expensing, and lower marginal tax rates on households. But the policy that probably deserves the most attention is Trump’s embrace of a 15 percent tax rate for business. What makes this policy so attractive – and vitally […]

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The “Progressive” Threat to Baltic Exceptionalism

I’m a big fan of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These three countries emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Empire and they have taken advantage of their independence to become successful market-driven economies. One key to their relative success is tax policy. All three nations have flat taxes. Estonia’s system is […]

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Tax Rates and Mobility of Superstar Inventors (along with more Election-Related Humor)

Back in 2010, I shared a cartoon video making a very important point that there’s a big downside when class-warfare politicians abuse and mistreat highly productive taxpayers. Simply stated, the geese with the golden eggs may fly away. And this isn’t just theory. As revealed by IRS data, taxpayer will move across borders to escape […]

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New Zealand and Singapore Get Best Scores, America Drops to #8, in 2016 Doing Business Rankings

For data-loving policy wonks, the World Bank’s Doing Business report is a fascinating look at the degree to which nations have a policy and governance environment that is conducive to economic activity. Unlike Economic Freedom of the World, it’s not designed to measure whether a jurisdiction has small government. Doing Business is probably best described […]

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The United States Should Aggressively Compete to Attract High-Skilled, Job-Creating Immigrants

While the overall issue of immigration is highly controversial and emotional, I’ve explained before that everyone should be able to agree that it’s a very good idea to bring in people who can be expected to increase per-capita economic output. The good news is that we have some policies designed to make this happen, including […]

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America’s Miserably Anti-Competitive Tax System

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the new rankings from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report and noted that America’s private sector is considered world class but that our public sector ranks poorly compared to many other developed nations. To elaborate on the depressing part of that observation, let’s now look at […]

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The United States Has the Third-Most Competitive Economy, but Could Be #1 if Government Was Smaller and Less Expensive

Most folks in Washington are still digesting last night’s debate between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. If that’s what you care about, you can see my Twitter commentary, though I was so busy addressing specific issues that I failed to mention the most disturbing part of that event, which was the total absence of any discussion about […]

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Advice for Taxpayers: If You Can’t Move to Hong Kong or the Cayman Islands, Move to Florida or Indiana

One (hopefully endearing) trait of being a policy wonk is that I have a weakness for jurisdictional rankings. At least if they’re methodologically sound. This is why I was so happy a couple of weeks ago when I got to peruse and analyze the 2016 version of Economic Freedom of the World (even if the […]

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Borders Limit Freedom but Promote Liberty

Like all good libertarians, I hate waiting in government-mandated lines. Heck, you don’t even have to be a curmudgeonly libertarian to have unpleasant thoughts about the Post Office or Department of Motor Vehicles (not to mention the virtual lines that exist for people stuck on hold after calling the IRS or some other inefficient bureaucracy). […]

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The European Commission’s War against Pro-Growth Corporate Tax Policy

I have a love-hate relationship with corporations. On the plus side, I admire corporations that efficiently and effectively compete by producing valuable goods and services for consumers, and I aggressively defend those firms from politicians who want to impose harmful and destructive forms of taxes, regulation, and intervention. On the minus side, I am disgusted […]

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Hillary Clinton’s “Exit Tax” Is an Unseemly Example of Banana Republic Economics

If you get into the weeds of tax policy and had a contest for parts of the internal revenue code that are “boring but important,” depreciation would be at the top of the list. After all, how many people want to learn about America’s Byzantine system that imposes a discriminatory tax penalty on new investment? […]

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A Cartoon that Tells You Everything You Need to Know about International Bureaucracies

Okay, I’ll admit the title of this post is an exaggeration. There are lots of things you should know – most bad, though some good – about international bureaucracies. That being said, regular readers know that I get very frustrated with the statist policy agendas of both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for […]

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The Chinese Miracle and the Economics of Growth

I’m in Shenyang, China, as part of the faculty for Northeastern University’s International Economics and Management program. My primary role is to talk about the economics of fiscal policy, explaining the impact of both taxes and spending. But regular readers already know my views on those issues, so let’s look instead at the vaunted Chinese […]

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Please, Hillary, Don’t Make America More Like Europe

The United States is laboring through the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Median household income is stagnant and labor-force participation is dismal. Sounds awful, right? Compared to the strong growth of the pro-market Reagan years and pro-market Clinton years, it is awful. But maybe we should count our blessings Here’s a chart from […]

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Tax Complexity Is a Tax on Paying Taxes

What’s the best measure of the tax burden on the U.S. economy? Is it the amount of money that we’re forced to surrender to the knaves in Washington (i.e., the difference between our pre-tax income and post-tax consumption)? Or is it the loss of economic output caused by high tax rates, distorting preferences, and pervasive […]

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Blue State Fail: California’s Long-Term Economic Decline

Something doesn’t add up. People like me have been explaining that California is an example of policies to avoid. Depending on my mood, I’ll refer to the state as the France, Italy, or Greece of the United States. But folks on the left are making the opposite argument. A writer for the Huffington Post tells […]

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Switzerland’s Improbable Success and the Important Role of Federalism

Programs about the improbable success of Chile and Estonia already have aired on nationwide TV, and those were joined last weekend by a show about the “sensible nation” of Switzerland. Here’s the 28-minute program. When I first watched the program, I was slightly irked that there was very little discussion of the role of fiscal […]

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Five Big Reasons to Applaud the Improbable Success of Estonia…and Five Small Reasons to Worry

Communism is an evil system. Freedom is squashed and people are merely cogs in a system where government exercises total control over the economy and destroys the lives of ordinary people. It also erodes the social capital of a people, telling them that individual initiative and success are somehow exploitative and evil. So when such […]

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