A Tax-Policy Take on the “Maximum Wage” Debate

I disagreed with what I was reading but didn’t plan to respond. I changed my mind when I read what you wrote at the end of your story… “I would be interested in feedback and critiques of this idea, do feel free to respond.”

So if you’re unhappy with my feedback then don’t blame me. Well… don’t only blame me. Blame yourself as well. So then we’ll both shoulder the blame. We’ll bear the burden of blame together.

I can imagine you back in the olden days… “Dang, this star in the sky definitely does not really need to be so much brighter than all the other stars!” Then you would diminish its brightness through taxation. Elsewhere in some desert a few wise men on their camels would see that the star was no longer exceptionally bright and they would make a u-turn. No gifts for the Savior of mankind and we’d all go to hell.

In an alternative, less religious, olden day scenario you would turn the gold rush into a gold _______ . I failed to find an acceptable opposite of “rush”. I really hate it when words don’t have perfect opposites. Like, “to improve” really doesn’t have a perfect opposite. “To worsen”? No… ughh.

You think that arbitrarily messing with value signals would improve society but it really wouldn’t. It would worsen society. Yuck.

In a modern alternative you would tax J.K. Rowling’s income. What is that? You’d be telling the millions of people who willingly and voluntarily spent their own money on her books and movies, “Nooooo… you’re all wrong. None of you value Harry Potter that much. And I know this because I’m a mind-reader and I have x-ray vision and a crystal ball and a voodoo doll.”

To override everybody’s spending decisions is incredible. Would you try and do so to a random person at the super market? “Hey random lady, do you really need to spend so much money on soda? I don’t think so. Let me remove some soda cans from your shopping cart.” I don’t think that you have ever done this. I don’t think that it would ever do it. Yet, you seem really inclined to do the same thing with millions and millions of random people. Like I said, overriding everybody’s spending decisions is incredible.

Well… I should point out that there is one very notable exception to the incredibleness of overriding everybody’s spending decisions… the free-rider problem.

How much money have you spent on stories that you’ve read on Medium? You probably haven’t spent any money. But you’ve probably read at least a few stories that you’ve enjoyed. I’m too lazy to check out your recommended stories.

In this case Medium should charge each member $1 dollar per month. But then we should be given the freedom to choose which stories we spend our pennies on. And then we’ll see if any stories receive an exceptional amount of pennies. And then I’ll see which stories you personally spend the most pennies on. For sure I might disagree with your spending decisions… but who am I to override them? I don’t know you. I’m not your mother or your brother or your lover. So I’d be loathe to overrule your spending decisions.

So there’s nothing inherently wrong with taxing Rowling. The problem is the fact that she doesn’t have the freedom to decide which public goods she spends her taxes on.

Feel free to offer feedback on my feedback.