I did not even know it, but apparently I have been a Pigovian since my first year of eligibility to vote in presidential elections. It was 1980, and I backed John Anderson.1 The main plank in his campaign platform that I still remember 28 years later was a 50c/gallon gas tax. This was at a time when the nominal cost of a gallon of gasoline had just passed 50 cents (though the price in 2007 dollars was about $2.00).
Last October, in the WSJ, Greg Mankiw gave the case for a large (but gradual) increase in the gas tax, which he reprinted at his blog under the title, The Pigovian Manifesto.
John Anderson got 7% of the vote in the general election in 1980, and as far as I know no candidate who advocated a large increase in the gas tax has beaten that percentage since. As Mankiw concludes with:
don’t expect those vying for office to come around until the American people recognize that while higher gas taxes are unattractive, the alternatives are even worse.
Indeed. Count me in as a self-declared (and, in spirit, adult-lifelong) member of the Pigou Club, along with Mankiw, Al Gore, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan, Greg Easterbrook, Joe Stiglitz, Gary Becker, Nouriel Roubini, Arthur Laffer, and an evidently growing list of economists, pundits, and other social commentators. Are political scientists/orchardists welcome to the club?
- Not only with my vote, but as a petition coordinator in my city for his petition drive to get on the general-election ballot. [↩]