Peter Diamond & Emmanuel Saez, The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations, 25 Journal of Economic Perspectives 165 (Fall 2011).
Too often, policy research relies more on the misleadingly elegant results of economic theory than on actual evidence. Tax policy discussions, as I will describe below, are especially prone to being infected by this evidence-free approach to analysis. Fortunately, two of the best public finance economists in the world, Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez, have recently provided a much-needed antidote: The Case for a Progressive Tax: From Basic Research to Policy Recommendations. To understand just how important their article is, it is necessary to appreciate the deep roots of the problem that their article addresses.
As an economics graduate student, and later as a young economics professor, I often felt a deep sense of unease about the disconnect between economic theory and the empirical research that was relevant to evaluating that theory. Overwhelmingly, we learned in classes (and from theoretical scholarship) a series of “known results” that followed from the manipulation of economic models—results that, however nicely derived from the assumptions of those models, either were not backed up by any empirical research, or the magnitude of which turned out to be quite trivial. Continue reading "What Legal Scholars Need to Know About Economic Research on Taxation: The Evidence Thoroughly Debunks the Conventional Wisdom"