Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Linking Government, Tax Rates, and Economic Growth

Tax policy does have an effect on the overall economy. However it's hard to measure because of the lack of a "control" group. How much would have economic growth grown had taxes been lower? Perhaps we would have had a 4% growth rate instead of 3%, it's difficult to determine what if.

That's why the studies referenced below are important.

Unlike other studies, they try and control for other factors leaving tax rates as the variable, this is how any good study of a variable should proceed. These are the only types of studies I know of that try and control for other variables. It's nearly worthless to compare tax rates across different eras to come to a conclusion because of the different conditions that exist. The best we can do is compare countries with similar conditions and with differing tax rates to get an answer. Yet there are so many variables that even those studies cannot completely eliminate outside factors. Still, the studies confirm basic economic theory, that taxes are distortionary and are a negative factor to economic growth. Now people should also see that taxes translate into government spending and that can have positive benefits. It is possible for those positive benefits to outweigh the negatives of a tax, an easy example is the construction of a bridge or road to reduce transportation costs which stimulates economic growth. So it seems that higher taxes can be positive ONLY if the taxes are spent in a way that produces more benefits than the cost of the tax. You can disagree with my analysis of the data, but you should visit the website anyway because there are good and constructive analysis from both sides. Given today's government with its high inefficient manner of allocating resources and spending, it seems highly unlikely to me that the proceeds from a higher tax would be spent wisely.

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