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The fundamental problem of designing a wide scope general revenue tax can be reduced to the selection of the base used for administering the tax. Our current personal…
The fundamental problem of designing a wide scope general revenue tax can be reduced to the selection of the base used for administering the tax. Our current personal income tax is a hybrid version of a tax assessed on the basis of a tax unit's annual income receipts. An alternative to an income‐based tax that has received much theoretical treatment but little actual application is an expenditure‐based tax. An expenditure tax (also called a consumption tax or cash flow tax in the context of this paper) differs from an income tax in that it exempts net saving and investment from the tax base. Though the details of a consumption tax design are discussed more fully elsewhere in this paper, the tax base of an expenditure tax is roughly determined by subtracting net savings from gross receipts (including wages, tips, salaries, income from investments, interests, etc.). Withdrawals from savings constitute dissavings and are appropriately included in net savings. The cash flow tax, with wealth transfers deductible to the donor and included in the tax base of the recipient, would be a tax on an individual's standard of living. Similar to the present income tax standard deduction, some universal credit or exemption for a small level of consumption could be allowed.
Keynes' criticisms of Tinbergen's pioneering econometric work are traced back to Keynes' concept of “inductive probability logic”. Induction had already been rejected by Popper as the basis of scientific method. He argued that theories could be corroborated but not proved by the failure of attempts to falsify them by observation and experiment. Economic theory is proto‐theory, which is not fully falsifiable, but which yields falsifiable results if appropriate econometric methods, or a method‐theory is applied to it. A useful method‐theory needs to go beyond description and forecasting to policy optimisation.
The Bureau of Economics in the Federal Trade Commission has a three-part role in the Agency and the strength of its functions changed over time depending on the preferences and ideology of the FTC’s leaders, developments in the field of economics, and the tenor of the times. The over-riding current role is to provide well considered, unbiased economic advice regarding antitrust and consumer protection law enforcement cases to the legal staff and the Commission. The second role, which long ago was primary, is to provide reports on investigations of various industries to the public and public officials. This role was more recently called research or “policy R&D”. A third role is to advocate for competition and markets both domestically and internationally. As a practical matter, the provision of economic advice to the FTC and to the legal staff has required that the economists wear “two hats,” helping the legal staff investigate cases and provide evidence to support law enforcement cases while also providing advice to the legal bureaus and to the Commission on which cases to pursue (thus providing “a second set of eyes” to evaluate cases). There is sometimes a tension in those functions because building a case is not the same as evaluating a case. Economists and the Bureau of Economics have provided such services to the FTC for over 100 years proving that a sub-organization can survive while playing roles that sometimes conflict. Such a life is not, however, always easy or fun.