Taxes: There’s their Beef

Co-blogger Bryan Caplan and his favorite philosopher Michael Huemer have debated whether one should eat beef. Neither has persuaded the other.

But there’s one thing that I think they can agree on, a measure that would reduce coercion and marginally reduce the demand for beef: end the tax on beef producers that is used to fund the “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” ads.

Baylen Linnekin, a food lawyer who always writes sensibly about government regulation of food, lays out the issue here. It turns out that many ranchers are protesting the tax.

One little quibble: Linnekin writes that the tax raises prices without benefiting ranchers. His view is that the tax shifts the supply curve to the left, increasing prices. He’s right. But it almost certainly raises the demand for beef too, which also leads to increased prices; but this part of the price increase does benefit ranchers. What he could probably argue is that the benefit to many ranchers is less than the part of the tax burden they bear. And there’s a good chance that would be correct; otherwise they probably wouldn’t be protesting the tax.

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