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Assume the Positional: Comment on Robert Frank

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  • Andrew Kashdan
  • Daniel B. Klein

Abstract

We examine Robert Frank’s arguments for taxation to mitigate positional externalities. The scarcity that characterizes positional goods is real, but various mechanisms reduce the potential waste, and Frank overstates the case for a governmental solution. The plausibility of Frank’s arguments for extensive market failure requires various assumptions, including the usefulness of happiness comparisons over time, the widespread existence of winner-take-all markets, the failure of voluntary evolution to internalize externalities, and that both “leisure†and governmental activities are significantly less positional than the full-range of activities Frank proposes to tax. Each assumption is shaky. Frank’s policy solutions overlook standard public choice arguments against government expansion and shrug off the Smithian burden of proof incumbent on those proposing coercion.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Econ Journal Watch in its journal Econ Journal Watch.

Volume (Year): 3 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 412-434

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Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:3:y:2006:i:3:p:412-434

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Related research

Keywords: Positional goods; positional arms race; leisure; taxation; happiness;

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Cited by:
  1. Robert H. Frank, 2006. "Taking Libertarian Concerns Seriously: Reply to Kashdan and Klein," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(3), pages 435-451, September.
  2. João Bernardino & Tanya Araújo, 2013. "On positional consumption and technological innovation: an agent-based model," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 23(5), pages 1047-1071, November.
  3. João Bernardino & Tanya Araújo, 2010. "On Positional Consumption and Technological Innovation- an Agent-based Approach," Working Papers Department of Economics 2010/04, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  4. Gasana, Parfait U., 2009. "Relative status and interdependent effects in consumer behavior," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 52-59, January.

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