Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 23, 2010

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, a huge fan of Pigouvian taxes, once famously proposed using them to deal with a fundamental issue of income inequality: human height disparity. He describes the issue in his paper with Matthew Weinzierl:

Should the income tax system include a tax credit for short taxpayers and a tax surcharge for tall ones? This paper shows that the standard utilitarian framework for tax policy analysis answers this question in the affirmative. This result has two possible interpretations. One interpretation is that individual attributes correlated with wages, such as height, should be considered more widely for determining tax liabilities. Alternatively, if policies such as a tax on height are rejected, then the standard utilitarian framework must in some way fail to capture our intuitive notions of distributive justice.

Fortunately for both the tall rich and the economically disadvantaged short, German artist Hans Hemmert has devised a technological solution that will allow people to overcome the bias and discrimination that provides the tall with an additional $1,000 per year in wages for every inch they lord over the short. Via Core77:

Berlin-based artist Hans Hemmert (famous for his work with balloons) threw a party where guests wore shoe-extenders to make them all the same height of 2 meters. Aside from bringing the partygoers all to a common eye level (and eliminating the awkward postures of party talk between the tall and the short), the gathering is lent an infographic nature by the shoes: all made from blue foam, the person's real height is read in the visual uniformity of the sole instead of at the head—like a walking bar graph.

Finally, an effective, yet inexpensive solution for the social problems of height disparity, which serves the dual purpose of also establishing visual uniformity at the grassroots level. What could be more equal? And best of all, the dream of the NAASP can be achieved in our lifetimes....

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