Charles Barkley Articulates the Benefit Principle

There are various versions of the benefit principle of taxation. One is the James Buchanan/Knut Wicksell version, which says that to get unanimous agreement for a government expenditure, you need to have people pay an amount in taxes that is less than the benefit they perceive.

That’s not what former NBA player Charles Barkley articulates but nevertheless he does state a reasonable version of the benefit principle.

Barkley said yesterday that NBA, NFL, and NHL players should get the vaccine right away because of the huge taxes they pay. He stated:

As much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment.

When Kenny Smith challenges him by saying “the amount of money you make” and then trails off but is clearly about to say that one’s income shouldn’t be a consideration in when one gets the vaccine. But Barkley stays on message saying, “I said taxes; I didn’t say the amount of money you make.” Kenny’s making the point that those are highly connected but Charles is right to keep it focused on his point. This is something that taxpayers paid for, players in those three leagues pay a lot of tax per person, and, therefore, they should bet preferential treatment.

There are two other reasons to give them preferential treatment.

First, as my Hoover colleague John Cochrane emphasizes, it’s important to get the vaccine early to those who would be superspreaders. The players are virtually all young and many of them have active social lives. So, simply from the externality viewpoint, they should get preferential treatment.

Second, and I think this is a weaker argument, various state governments have dictated the various things we can’t do together. One of the ways left is TV. We hear every day about this or that game that is postponed because of players having tested positive. My own Golden State Warriors won’t be playing tonight against the Phoenix Suns because of “ongoing contact tracing” of the Suns. More games; more entertainment; lower loss from the lockdowns.

Finally, note that if vaccines were allowed to be sold on the market, almost all players would have them by now and, of course, so would other people now in the queue. The slowness of the queue is due to government.

HT2 Tyler Cowen.

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