Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Musical tidbit

I've started listening to Big Star's Complete Third on Spotify.  The first third of it is demos from the start of this famous and ill-fated project - stunningly beautiful solo acoustic performances by Alex Chilton of great songs that generally ended up on the album.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Paper on the Treasury White Paper and EU state aid posted on SSRN

With permission, I have now posted on SSRN my paper on the Treasury White Paper and the EU state aid cases, which appeared in Tax Notes and Tax Notes International on September 19 of this year. It's available here.

UPDATE: The piece was temporarily taken down by SSRN, because it requires permission from Tax Notes, which I have.  I've communicated this (with relevant proof) to SSRN, and I am hoping it will be back up soon.

FURTHER UPDATE: Ah, we're back in business.  I thnk it's the same link as previously, but just to be sure, use this.

A partly supply-side theory of Trumpism

A recent Vox column by Dylan Matthews exposes the fatuity, or at least inaccuracy, of widespread assumptions that Trump voters, however unworthy their ranting idol, have economic grievances that reflect their "living on the edges of the economy" and having been "left behind."  To the contrary, their "median household income [is] $72,000, a fair bit higher than the $62,000 median household income for non-Hispanic whites in America .... Trump support [is] correlated with higher, not lower, income, both among the population as a whole and among white people. Trump supporters were less likely to be unemployed or to have dropped out of the labor force. Areas with more manufacturing, or higher exposure to imports from China, were less likely to think favorably of Trump."

Instead, support for Trump correlates with racial resentment, which, in turn, I believe, often correlates with living in all-white communities where one doesn't actually meet or get to know African-Americans or non-white immigrants..

It's widely recognized that Trumpism also reflects people's living in a bubble where the only media or other information sources that they get to see are those confirming their ideological biases.  Needless to say, this phenomenon is not limited to Trump supporters, and it's always unhealthy even if not always this toxic.

In this regard, however, I thought of two things that might usefully be put together.  First, a shout-out to Cass Sunstein, who wrote about the self-selected media bubble phenomenon as early as 2002 in his book (the revised or "2.0" edition of which is available here).

Second, I thought of something I heard about many years ago, when the post-Yugoslavian civil war between Serbs and Croats was at its height.  I heard it said (via someone who grew up in Yugoslavia during the Tito era) that, for many years, intense Serb versus Croat ethnic identification was very much on the wane, at least in areas where members of both groups lived. It really seemed to be something from the past. There was intermarriage, people didn't strongly identify with their groups or stay away from the other one, etcetera.  But then, of course, when the larger state broke up, ambitious Serb and Croat politicians deliberately took the opportunity to stir up ethnic hatred and violence as a way of strengthening their own political positions.

The fact that this proved so successful showed that people still remembered enough of those old hatreds to be capable of sinking back into them. The haters on both sides are fully morally responsible for what they became. But it was also an act of insidious political entrepreneurship by the leaders who chose to stir up the hatred, because they saw that it would be to their advantage.

I think there is something similar going on with Trumpism.  Media entrepreneurs, from Fox News to the further-out fringes, have seen that they could build their audiences by exciting racial and ethnic hatred. Their consumers evidently decided to embrace this, but also were probably changed by exposure to it.  So one can see this in part as a John Kenneth Galbraith-type manipulative advertising story, in which the entrepreneurs take an active role in shaping people's preferences, albeit requiring those people willingly to take the first, second, and third steps themselves.

This is a point that one could add to Sunstein's analysis.  Not only do people retreat into like-minded media bubbles, thus entirely separating their realities from each others' realities, but there's an entrepreneurial environment in which extremism and hatred "sell."  Thus, powerful market incentives invite creating the sort of monstrous dysfunctionality that we see rampant in the 2016 presidential campaign.

I have no particular proposal to make about all this, but it might help one better to understand Trumpism, and in particular the nihilistic rage and hatred that seems to have consumed people who often aren't doing all that terribly.

Sleep of the innocent

Some of us are lucky enough not to know anything about our toxic presidential election.

Monday, October 17, 2016

NYU Colloquium on High-End Inequality - starting next Monday (October 24)!

Long-planned but finally approaching, our half-semester NYU Law School Colloquium on High-End Inequality is finally starting next Monday.  Robert Frank of Cornell University and I will be the co-convenors.  Sessions will meet at the main NYU Law School building, Vanderbilt Hall (40 Washington Square South) from 4:10 to 6 pm.  A small group will go to dinner after each session; those who wish to go to a particular dinner (subject to space availability) should get in touch with us.

The sessions are open to the public.  Papers should shortly become available online, but in any event we'll be sending them out in weekly emails to all who ask to be put on the email distribution list.

The schedule is as follows:

October 24 – Robert Frank, Cornell University. 5 short pieces: (1) Why Has Inequality Been Growing?, (2)Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think, (3) Does Inequality Matter?, (4) Why have weddings and houses gotten so ridiculously expensive? Blame inequality, and (5) The Progressive Consumption Tax.  Guest commentator: K. Anthony Appiah, NYU Philosophy Department.

October 31 – Kate Pickett, Department of Health Sciences, University of York.  (1) Income Inequality and Health: A Causal Review; (2) The Enemy Between Us: The Psychological and Social Costs of Inequality (both co-authored by Richard Wilkinson).

November 7 – Ilyana Kuziemko, Princeton University Economics Department.  Support for Redistribution in an Age of Rising Inequality: New Stylized Facts and Some Tentative Explanations (coauthored by Vivekinan Ashok and Ebonya Washington).

November 14 – Alan Viard, American Enterprise Institute.  Progressive Consumption Taxation: The X Tax Revisited (chapters 1-3) (coauthored by Robert Carroll)

November 21 – Daniel Shaviro, NYU Law School.  The Mapmaker’s Dilemma in Evaluating High-End Inequality.  Guest commentator: Liam Murphy, NYU Law School.

November 28 – Adair Morse, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley.  Trickle-Down Consumption (coauthored by Marianne Bertrand).

December 5 – Daniel Markovits, Yale Law School.  Meritocracy and Its Discontents.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Where we are as a country

People at Trump rallies are openly calling for the sexual assault accusers to be jailed - as well as for Election Day violence and voter intimidation, the murder of Hillary Clinton if she wins (they might settle for jailing her if she loses), and violent revolution if she wins. Trump has also been very clear that "unfair" reporting alone is enough to render the outcome "rigged." So absent pro-Trump advance censorship he will reject the voters' verdict.

Global Tax Conference at NYU

On Friday, October 28, from 8 am to 4:30, we'll be hosting a conference at NYU Law School (in Vanderbilt Hall, room 210) entitled Divergent Country Views of Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting. This is a follow-up to the June 1 conference on OECD-BEPS that we co-sponsored in Amsterdam with that event's hosts (and co-sponsors this time as well), the Amsterdam Centre for Tax Law.  More information, including re. how to register, is available here.

The conference will feature divergent views - the title is definitely right about that - from academics, practitioners, and business people from the U.S., the EU, and Brazil, regarding OECD-BEPS, the EU state aid cases, country-by-country reporting, and less-developed-countries' issues with treaties.  Indeed, here is the schedule:

8:15 AM – 9:45 AM:  Panel 1:  European Commission State Aid Cases
Dan Shaviro (NYU Law) (moderator)
Itai Grinberg (Georgetown Law Center)
Hein Vermeulen (University of Amsterdam)
Dennis Webber (University of Amsterdam)
9:45 AM – 10:00 AM:  Coffee Break
10:00 – 11:30 AM:  Panel 2: Predictive Value of BEPS Country-by-Country Reports
Joshua Blank (NYU Law) (moderator)
Steve Wrappe (KPMG)
David Ernick (PwC)
Reena Bhatt (Geller & Company)
11:30 AM – 1:00 PM:  Lunch Break
 Afternoon Session (Vanderbilt Hall Room 204)
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM:  Panel 3: Less Developed Countries and Tax Treaties
Rick Reinhold (Willkie Farr & Gallagher) (moderator)
Steve Dean (Brooklyn Law School)
Lily Faulhaber (Georgetown Law Center)
Michael Lennard (UN – by video)
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM: Coffee Break
3:00 PM – 4:30 PM Panel 4: US Compliance with the OECD BEPS Project
Mitchell Kane (NYU Law) (moderator)
Stephen Shay (Harvard Law School)
Dennis Webber (University of Amsterdam)
Gustavo Vettori (Fundação Getúlio Vargas)
4:30 PM:  Concluding Remarks

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nobel Laureate message for dark times

Everybody's in despair / Every girl and boy / But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here / Everybody's gonna jump for joy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Strange days indeed

It's hard to stay focused or relaxed, what with all the insane political news exploding almost hourly.  Such a giant attention and emotion sink.

But the most satisfying things I did today, when I was able to ignore the Internet for periods here and there, were (1) figuring out how to explain a couple of international tax rules more clearly (I hope) to my class, (2) improving the opening to my E.M. Forster chapter, although I may be unable to do very much more on it for the next 2 months, and (3) quasi-following a Thai recipe for sautéed fish (flounder came out okay although the recipe rightly called for something meatier).

I will also be putting myself on Twitter at some point soon, although  more to link to this blog (and possibly news items in my field) than for anything else.  I don't plan to tweet away about the likes of presidential debates or even tax reform panels.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Video from Tax and Human Rights Conference

Video has now been posted of the sessions at the Tax and Human Rights Conference that took place at NYU on Friday, September 23.  The video from my panel is here, so you can see my talk, once I've been introduced, right at the start, and ending at about 15 minutes into the video.  Unfortunately, the powerpoint slides that I was using can't really be seen in the video, but they're separately available here.