London Review of Books Vol. 33 No. 16

Corey Robin’s article “The War on Tax” is poor for three reasons:

1) His grasp of recent American economic history is incomplete. It is true that the U.S. was on the path to eliminating its debt in 2000, but Clinton’s reforms were a combination on taxes on the rich and reduction is government spending. Whether it was a product of his policies or not, Clinton benefitted from strong economic growth in the 90s. 

2) Marxist analysis of the debt crisis is completely inappropriate. Fine, America is not Sweden. But it ignores American ideology of upward mobility of the last 200 years. As an excellent article in The Economist pointed out recently American poor don’t like taxing the rich and it is not obvious that they would even if the state provided more for them.

3) There are elementary errors. For example, corporate taxes in the US are not the lowest of any OECD country. In fact, the combined corporate income tax rate in 2011 in the U.S. is the second highest in the OECD after Japan.

Turn over the page, and you’ll find Stefan Collini’s superb article on the language of the the government White Paper on Higher Education (which came out after the disgraceful Browne Review). Collini takes us on an entertaining ride through the White Paper with an astute analysis of  ”economistic idiom” and “econobabble” and contrasts it with the intelligence, humanity, and maturity of the 1963 Robbins (yes that one!) Report on a similar matter. But I think Collini is a little too romantic about the ideal of unencumbered, joint pursuit of knowledge by teacher and student in universities – even at Cambridge, Collini’s ‘employment provider’.