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Columnist Can't Make Up His Mind

Author: Benn Steil, Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics
March 16, 2007


From Mr Benn Steil.

Sir, James Harkin (“An unhappy marriage of love and tax”, March 7) needs to make up his mind before opining on how people react to tax incentives.

He begins by arguing that using tax incentives to support the family is misguided because “nostrums about rational utility– maximisation in our everyday lives . . . had precious little explanatory value when it came to grasping the complex motives and passions that people bring to their everyday personal relationships”. So far, so clear. He ends, however, by telling us that the UK government's working families tax credit system has produced an extra 50,000 marriages over the past seven years –  evidence that “when politicians treat us as mercenary maximisers of strategic advantage, they are likely to find that we return the compliment and behave accordingly”.

Whoops. It seems the only conclusion I can draw is that the government shouldn't waste tax incentives on Mr Harkin.

Benn Steil,

Director of International Economics,

Council on Foreign Relations,

New York, NY 10065, US


This article appears in full on CFR.org by permission of its original publisher. It was originally available here.

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