Do higher taxes help explain China’s success?

David Cay Johnston appears to think the answer is yes:

In China, tax revenues since 2003 have grown a fifth faster than the booming economy.

In America, tax revenues are growing a quarter slower than the sputtering economy.

The result is that tax revenues are up 22 percent as a share of the Chinese economy, but down 7 percent as a share of the American economy.

In China, jobs are everywhere. In America, joblessness is everywhere.

There is a lesson here and it goes to the heart of why America, stuck for a decade in the economic doldrums, risks foundering on the shoals of economic ruin not because it taxes too much, but because it has adopted unsound and profoundly anti-market economic rules while Communist-led China sails into the future ever more prosperous even though its tax burdens are rising.

While China sees growth and taxes as circulatory economics each needing the other, America imagines taxes as bleeding the economy.


What the Chinese grasp is that it matters where tax money is spent. So they spend it on education, infrastructure and pensions to get older workers out and younger ones in.

In urban China — where half the people live — wide, smooth roads mark the land, the stretch marks of a growing economy. Storm sewers are being built to deal with chronic flooding along the low-lying coast and electric generating plants are coming on line as fast as the now ubiquitous air conditioners that make life in this humid region pleasant.

A few observations:

1.  I’ve had many opportunities to experience the “pleasant” Chinese living standards.

2.  The Chinese people seem to spend their money much more wisely than the Chinese government.

3.  China is poorer than Mexico.

4.  China is growing fast, as you’d expect of a country filled with 1.3 billion people whose culture reveres education, hard work, and entrepreneurship, and who has been moving away from the madness and starvation of Maoism.

5.  I have no doubt that if the US moved some of its vast spending on social programs to highway construction we too could have big new smooth roads.

6.  Taxes normally grow as a share of GDP as countries get more developed, and easier to tax.

7.  The East Asian countries that actually are pretty rich (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan) tend to have tax rates that are well below the average of western countries.

8.  Despite taxes that are much lower than in the US, Singapore has lots of nice roads and new infrastructure.

If we want to find an East Asian model to emulate, I’d suggest looking to low tax, rich, efficient Singapore, not poor and inefficient China.

I do agree with Mr. Johnston that we need to move away from our “anti-market” policies.

HT:  Adam Ozimek

You can’t redistribute income . . .

. . . but you can and should redistribute consumption.  Here’s Matt Yglesias discussing a recent post by John Quiggen:

John Quiggin makes the case that redistribution of income away from the top 1 percent is essentially the only thing that matters in American politics. After all, as Willie Sutton said, “that’s where the money is.”

I’m all for that, but I really do think it’s an unduly limited view of political life.

Income really is the Achilles heel of the progressive movement.  The income statistics simply don’t mean what progressives think they mean–something like “resources available for redistribution.”  If you want something closer to resources available, you’d use consumption, or wage income.  If you combine wage and capital income in the same aggregate, you are counting the same resources twice.  This is deeply counter-intuitive, yet all public finance economists understand this.  The policymakers in Nordic countries understand this.  But progressives don’t seem to understand this.  Even Paul Krugman, who must know better, keeps citing income distribution data, which is about as informative as examining the entrails of a chicken.

A rich guy with lots of income has three choices, consumption, savings/investment, and charity.  Let’s dispose of charity quickly.  Yes, we could redistribute the money Gates in spending on malaria in Africa, and give it to other Americans.  Would that be a gain?  I think everyone would say no.  On the other hand if a rich guy gives a lot of money to Princeton, to have his name on a building, perhaps that’s really a form of consumption.  I’m fine with treating it that way, if the tax authorities decide that’s the way to go.

But the real money here is obviously in the consumption/investment categories.  You can redistribute consumption from the top 1% and give it to average Americans working in a car factory, or a Walmart.  But it’s an illusion to think you can redistribute investment from the top 1%, so that average Americans can have a higher living standard.  Where do people think the car factory comes from?  Or the Walmart building?  BTW, this has nothing to do with trickle-down economics, a theory I reject.  This is simple accounting.  Money put into investment projects isn’t available to boost living standards for the lower classes, unless you don’t do those investment projects.

So what’s available to be redistributed?  Basically consumption (including a modest amount of vanity charity.)  And that’s it.  Now come back to me with the consumption distribution data, and let’s see what that looks like.  I predict that consumption inequality is far lower than income inequality.  And that consumption inequality is rising at a far slower rate than income inequality.  I’m not saying there’s no problem, but it’s way smaller than the progressives imagine, as the data they use is pure nonsense.  Consumption inequality is economic inequality.  Income inequality is . . . well it’s meaningless gobbletygoop.

This Will Wilkinson posts cites study after study supporting my consumption inequality claim.

I’m not trying to make an Ayn Randian argument here.  I favor 4 types of income redistribution, on utilitarian grounds:

1.  Education vouchers

2.  Catastrophic health insurance

3.  Government subsidy of HSAs for low income workers.

4.  Wage subsidies for low income workers, combined with abolition of minimum wages and occupational licensing.  Thus a single mom with two kids making $8 hour, might get a government subsidy of another $8 hour.  And someone making $16/hour might get a $4 hour subsidy.  But they have to be employed.  Have government jobs paying 1 cent per hour as a residual, for those claiming they can’t find a job.  Give them a $12/hour subsidy.

They would also get the other three subsidies discussed above.  As one’s income rose, one would get less and less of a HSA subsidy, but I’d probably make the education voucher and catastrophic insurance universal.  Importantly, I’d try to spend less on education than we do now.

You do all this redistribution with two consumption taxes; a VAT and a progressive payroll tax.  Plus perhaps some other taxes on efficiency grounds (carbon, land, etc.)  No personal or corporate income taxes, no forms to fill out.  K.I.S.S.

BTW, other than my quibble over “income,” I basically agree with the thrust of Yglesias’s post.

PS.  Oh, and get rid of the debt ceiling, for God’s sake.

If you are going to argue that people who make mistakes should be ostracized . . .

. . . it’s best not to make a serious mistake in your attack.  Here’s Matt Yglesias:

The answer is that the column labeled “Share of taxes of richest decile” is in fact the share of income taxes paid by the richest decile. The federal income tax in the United States does, in fact, have a progressive rate structure. Federal payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, most excise taxes, and property taxes all have a regressive rate structure. So, yes, if you look exclusively at the most progressive element of the American tax code, it’s highly progressive. If you compound that exercise by mislabeling your chart, then you can mislead people. You might think it’s a little strange that Greg Mankiw, an economics professor, would mislead people by uncritically endorsing such a misleading chart but Mankiw believes that progressive taxation is immoral and should be opposed even if it enhances human welfare. Perhaps this same moral theory leads him to believe that misleading people about the subject is an act of justice. If so, then I’m not sure it’s really in the interests of Harvard (or the many universities that assign his textbook) to entrust him with the instruction of teenage economics students.

Now I’m not going to argue that the chart Mankiw links to is exactly correct, but it looks like it’s in the right ballpark.  And I could tell that Yglesias’ assertion about income taxes was wrong without even looking up the numbers.  The top 10% in America pay way over 45% of income taxes, at least as tax incidence is normally estimated.  (BTW, the assumption that the incidence of income taxes falls on the people who write out checks to the IRS seems crazy to me, but my fellow economists of the left and right don’t agree.)

It is common knowledge among progressive public finance experts like Peter Lindert that the European tax regimes are able to collect more revenue than ours (as a share of GDP, not in total) by having a more regressive tax system.  Mankiw’s link may not be exactly right, but the stylized facts are in the right ballpark.  Given that Yglesias is a fan of the European welfare state, I’m surprised he hasn’t read Lindert’s research.

Actually, what most surprised me was the very low share of income earned by the top 10% in Switzerland.  That can’t possibly be right, can it?

Yglesias’ strongest argument might be that tax plus transfers in Europe might be more progressive than taxes alone.

BTW, I agree with Yglesias that a progressive (consumption) tax system is desirable, and don’t really buy into Mankiw’s “just deserts” approach.  So this post has nothing to do with my ideology.  (Of course if I had been born as Greg Mankiw I might feel differently about the just deserts approach.)

To summarize, it’s still safe to use Mankiw’s text, but Cowen/Tabarrok is also excellent.   (Can’t afford to piss off any influential bloggers.)

Update:  Scott Winship sent me a post with some quite interesting graphs on income inequality.  (BTW, I don’t think income inequality is the best way to measure economic inequality–I prefer consumption inequality.  But income is what most people use.)

Comment on Murphy and Thaler

Bob Murphy thinks he has an argument that blows away my critique of income:

A few weeks ago I promised to “eviscerate” Scott Sumner’s blog post, in which he claimed that income was a “meaningless, misleading and pernicious” concept. It is now ready for your inspection. Flowers and condolences can be sent to Scott Sumner’s widow, c/o Bentley University.

Not so fast there partner, I’m not dead yet.  Here’s a comment from his essay:

In the comments section of his first post, I asked Sumner if he had a problem with the standard definition of income. I reminded him that it is the amount of consumption that one could afford, without reducing the value of capital. Sumner replied, “I do not object to your definition. … I guess ‘meaningless’ was a bit strong, but what possible use is there for a concept that measures how much consumption one could do [without] impairing one’s wealth?”

This reply actually flummoxed me; it’s akin to asking what possible use there is for the concept of profit. Specifically, a household needs to calculate its income, in order to know if it is “living beyond its means.” We can make the analysis more esoteric if we wish. For example, one of the key issues in Austrian business-cycle theory is that people during the boom period enjoy a false prosperity “” a high standard of living “” because they are unwittingly consuming their capital. These crucial issues are dependent on the basic definition that Sumner finds useless.

I hate it when people quote my comments; often my brain is fried by the time I answer my 100th comment in a day.  But I’ll stick by this one.  Profit is useful because it tells firms whether to enter or exit an industry.  Positive economic profit suggests you should enter, and negative economic profit is a signal to exit.  But income is a signal for  . . .  what?  Surely not for consumption.  Yes, it tells you how much you can consume without digging into capital, but why would you want to consume that much?  I had negative income in 2008, but I didn’t decide to do negative consumption.  I dug into my capital—which Bob suggests is violating the recommendation of Austrian business cycle theory.  Entschuldigen sie bitte!  (That’s ‘sorry’ in Austrian.)

Bob also finds an inconsistency in my critique of income taxes.

By the same token, I could challenge Sumner’s own argument for a tax on consumption. Imagine two identical people who could each hold a $100,000-per-year job. Person A goes to work, and spends his entire income on goodies each year. Because the government imposes a Scott-Sumner-approved 11 percent tax on consumption, this man pays $10,000 to the government, and actually only consumes $90,000 worth of goodies.

On the other hand, person B decides to be a drifter. He only works occasionally at odd jobs; he spends most of his days hitchhiking, watching the sunset, and working on his great American novel. He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, though: out of the $10,000 in annual income that he earns, he saves none of it, sends $1,000 to the government, and consumes the remaining $9,000 in goodies.

I could very easily condemn this hypothetical consumption tax, and along Sumnerian lines. After all, the two men had equal abilities at the start of their adulthood. Person B could have chosen to work in the office and earn enough money to spend $90,000 each year on consumption. But instead, person B chose a different path. So why in the world should the government tax him far less than it is taxing the “equivalent” person A?

So far, so good. I am showing that the (immoral and inefficient) consumption tax cannot hold up to scrutiny; it isn’t really true that people who “consume” more are necessarily “richer” and therefore able to pay more, as Scott Sumner and other advocates of the consumption tax seem to think.

But what if I went further? Suppose I went on to argue, “Indeed, the very concept of labor income is meaningless, misleading, and pernicious. In our example, person A earned ten times as much ‘labor income’ as person B, but there is no reason to suppose that person A somehow has a better life, since person B could have made the same choices. Indeed, ‘labor income’ is really just forfeited leisure. The drifter could have devoted his hours to office work, but instead he chose to ‘purchase’ $90,000 worth of his time from himself. Therefore, to count ‘labor income’ as a form of freebie flow of wealth is to count the same hours twice.”

Now, regardless of how one feels about the validity of a consumption tax, does anyone want to go so far as to say that a paycheck isn’t really a form of income after all? I submit that Sumner made an analogous mistake in his own analysis. Just because we can imagine scenarios in which an income tax (that includes interest and capital gains) is patently unfair, does not mean that interest income therefore isn’t “really” income. Rather, it simply means that the conventional calls for progressive income taxes are misguided.

OK, whenever I lose an argument on logical grounds, I fall back on pragmatism.  I agree that consumption doesn’t really measure the theoretically relevant concept.  People get utility from goods, services, and leisure.  In practice it’s hard to tax leisure, or even measure leisure, so we tend to estimate living standards based on consumption, and we tend to tax consumption despite the fact that it distorts the labor/leisure choice.  We could avoid the distortion with a head tax, but that is probably too regressive.  On the other hand a land tax just might work.

Of course Bob will say the tax discussion is off-topic (I always use sleight of hand when losing); he showed that my argument against income could just as easily apply to consumption on purely logical grounds.  And I admit that my critique was more about specific uses of income (taxes, Gini coefficients, etc) than the concept itself.  Consumption is also less than perfect, as a tax base and as a way of judging living standards.  But I still think it’s much better than income.  So income is truly evil, and consumption is just a little bit naughty.

Oh, and my wife says she’d prefer red roses.

Part 2:  Richard Thaler tries to defend the indefensible

First, it is incorrect to say the estate tax amounts to double taxation. The wealth in many large estates has never been taxed because it is largely in the form of unrealized “” therefore untaxed “” capital gains. A 2000 study found that for estates worth more than $10 million, unrealized capital gains represented 56 percent of assets. For estates with active farms and businesses, the percentage is much higher. If no estate tax is imposed, capital gains taxes can be avoided indefinitely.

In fact, any tax on capital income is double taxation of labor income.  That’s why a consumption tax is best.  What Thaler should have said is that the estate tax is not necessarily triple taxation.  Triple taxation would occur if you earned some labor income, paid taxes, saved some of the remainder, earned capital gains on the saving, paid capital gains tax, and then was taxed when you died and left the remainder to your niece.  We need to abolish the estate tax and replace it with a progressive consumption tax (i.e. payroll tax.)

Greg Mankiw replies to Thaler, and has much better arguments.

Income: A meaningless, misleading, and pernicious concept

And now, finally, my post on the optimal tax regime.  It will be nice to finally get this off my chest, as you can’t imagine how enraged I get reading progressives talk about the “principle” that all forms of income should be taxed equally (which is like a “principle” that all fruit should sell at the same unit price.)  Or when they discuss Gini coefficients of inequality based on meaningless income data (not to mention ignoring the fact that the economic incidence of a tax is totally different from its legal incidence.)

Bear with me as I start from first principles; this is an important post.  I will try to convince my progressive readers that they should favor complete abolition of all personal and corporate income taxes, as well as all inheritance taxes.

Suppose 2 brothers both make $100,000 a year.  One spends his income on watermelon, and the other spends it on blueberries.  Would it make sense to decry the inequality of this society, merely because the blueberry eater got to consume a larger number of “fruits” (because their unit price was lower?)  Clearly not, and for two very good reasons.

1.  They are each free to buy either type of fruit.

2.  The higher unit price of watermelon indicates they are more highly valued (per individual fruit.)

Now assume it’s possible to invest income at a real rate of interest that allow one to quintuple one’s wealth between age 25 and 65.  (Say a 40 year zero coupon real bond yielding around 4%.)  In this example let both brothers consume nothing but blueberries.  One brother chooses not to save at all, the other saves 40% of his income.  One eats $100,000 worth of blueberries today; the other eats $60,000 today and saves $40,000.  After 40 years the thrifty brother gets to eat $200,000 worth of blueberries.  Both also get some social security at 65.  Here’s my question:  In this society is there any economic inequality?

I don’t see how anyone could say there is.  Both have exactly the same wage income at age 25.   Yes, they do different things with it, but that’s their choice.  At age 65 one has zero income outside social security, and the other has $160,000 in capital gains, which is generally considered “income.”  But nonetheless there is complete equality for two reasons:

1.  Both are free to choose whether to save or not, so we have no evidence that one brother had more utility than the other.

2.  In present value terms their total lifetime consumption of blueberries is identical.

The mistake is assuming that blueberries in 40 year are the same thing as blueberries today.  Future blueberries only cost 1/5th as much, as they are much less valued than current blueberries.  They are different goods just as much as watermelon and blueberries are different goods.  That $160,000 gain is not “income” in the way most people think of the term, i.e. as some sort of goodie available for spending.  Rather it reflects deferred consumption.  The $200,000 received at 65 is exactly equal in present value to the $40,000 saved today.  Indeed it is the very same wealth, simply measured at a different point in time.  It is nonsensical to say the thrifty brother has income of $100,000 today plus another $160,000 at age 65, you’d be counting the same income twice.

Studies of economic inequality should completely ignore all capital income, and measure only labor income, or consumption.  Indeed the present value of labor income should equal the present value of consumption.  And as we will see, a labor tax (like the 2.9% Medicare tax) is identical to a consumption tax (like a VAT.)

Consider how a 50% payroll tax would affect the previous example.  Every figure would be cut in half.  The spendthrift would consume $50,000 today, and the thrifty guy would consume $30,000 today and $100,000 at age 65.   An equal-sized VAT would have an identical effect, cutting consumption for each person in half, at each point in time.

But now consider a 50% income tax.  The spendthrift would be affected in exactly the same way as with the other two taxes.  But the thrifty guy would pay a much higher tax.  He’d save $20,000, and that would produce $100,000 in 40 years.  The government would then take $40,000 of the so-called capital “income” in taxes, leaving him with only $60,000 for consumption.  If he wants to prepay his future tax liability, he must save $8,000 today in order to pay a $40,000 tax bill at 65.  That means $8,000 of his current saving goes to pay future taxes, and only $12,000 goes toward future consumption.  His total tax is then (in current dollars) $50,000 plus $8,000, or $58,000.  His tax rate is 58%, against 50% for his spendthrift brother.  And all because they have different preferences, not because one brother is in any meaningful sense “better off” than the other brother.  It’s no different from putting a higher income tax rate on a brother who eats blueberries, as compared to one who eats watermelon, merely because he has more blueberries in numerical terms.

At this point you might be thinking “Yes, but wouldn’t eliminating all income and consumption taxes be a giveaway to the rich?”  No, it would be restoring fairness by taxing the thrifty and spendthrift at equal rates.  If we think the rich should pay more tax, then let’s put a progressive consumption tax into effect.  This is easy to do, just turn the regressive FICA into a progressive payroll tax, with much higher rates for those with high wages and salaries.  This sort of tax can achieve any desired degree of progressivity.   Unlike most libertarians, I think a progressive payroll tax is desirable for simple utilitarian reasons.  I don’t buy the “I worked hard for it, it’s my money” argument, for two reasons:

1.  Most of your income comes from luck.  If you’d been born in a poor peasant household in Asia or Africa, your income would be low no matter how hard you worked.  You hit the jackpot just being born in a developed country.

2.  Our wealth comes from living in a highly functional society, thus part of your wealth is due to the fact that your neighbors don’t go around raping and pillaging as in the old days, but rather peaceably go to polling stations to vote.  Am I saying; “It Takes a Village?”  Sort of, more precisely “it takes a civic-minded culture.”

At this point my progressive readers might be willing to go for the progressive consumption tax for those who worked hard and saved their money.  But surely not for that deadbeat trust fund kid, who is living off daddy’s wealth?  Surely there should be an inheritance tax so that those with inherited wealth don’t go through their entire life without paying any tax?

If this is what you are thinking, you are still confused.  I will show that, if anything, we should be subsidizing those trust fund deadbeats.

First recall that if we have an optimal payroll tax then the money they inherit is all after-tax money.  And if we had a VAT, then the heirs would have to pay taxes on their consumption.  Now let’s go back and look at the case of the two brothers.  Suppose both have arrived at age 65 with $10,000,000 in wealth.  Also assume that we have a steeply progressive payroll tax, so they are considered morally justified in spending the wealth they have accumulated after paying those taxes.  The only issue being considered is whether we should have an inheritance tax on top of the payroll tax.  So let’s assume a 50% inheritance tax is introduced.  Compare the follow two scenarios:

1.  Brother A spends the entire $10,000,000 on fancy sports cars, yachts, champagne, glamorous parties, etc.  Brother B spends $5,000,000 and gives $5,000,000 to his only child.  Who should pay more tax?  We’ve already agreed that the guy who consumes all his wealth has already paid his dues through the progressive payroll tax. If not, then make it more progressive.  The other guy would have to pay $2,5000,000 in inheritance taxes, leaving his kid with $2,500,000.  It seems to me that on both efficiency and moral grounds the more generous dad should not pay more, but rather should actually pay less taxes than the other guy:

1.  He is less selfish, so virtue ethics favors the one who makes bequests.

2.  Because of diminishing marginal utility, it’s better to share your wealth with one other person.  He wins on utilitarian grounds.

3.  The inheritance tax discourages saving, and thus reduces the capital stock.  This lowers the real wage of workers who work with physical capital.

Brace yourself.  The optimal policy is a negative inheritance tax.  At age 65 both rich guys should be forced to put some amount (let’s say $100,000) into a government fund.  When they die, the $200,000 should go to the kid who also inherited the rich guy’s money.  I know what you are thinking—why not give the $200,000 to the poor?  Because we already assumed the existence of a progressive payroll (or consumption) tax, which is redistributing the optimal amount of money to the poor.  This extra tax is just trying to make things a bit more equal among two old rich guys, and one worthless trust fund baby.

[Yes, I’m sort of joking here—just trying to rigorously apply the logic of egalitarianism.  (For my trust-fund kid readers–I have nothing against you, I am just parroting society’s prejudices.)  But I am serious about favoring a progressive consumption tax.  Indeed I favor it so much that I would prefer it even if it meant I paid more in taxes than I do right now.  You will never find me complaining that I can’t get by on a family income of over $250,000.]

I think people have a huge mental block about these ideas, because they grossly misunderstand the actual incidence of taxes.  For instance, most people think consumption is much more equal than income, and hence that consumption taxes are regressive.  Actually, consumption taxes are proportional to consumption, which is the only meaningful benchmark.  Income is meaningless gobbledygook.  And most people think wealth is much less equal than income.  But how can both of these perceptions be correct, when wealth is nothing more than the present value of all future consumption for you and your heirs!  Actually, inequality of wealth and consumption are exactly equal, when properly measured in present value terms.  OK, to make this true I have to treat gifts from the rich is part of their consumption.  But even in a society where the wealthy made no gifts, most people would be shocked to find out that wealth and consumption inequality are equal.   And the reason is that our minds are being twisted and distorted by a meaningless concept—income.  People find it hard to shake the notion that income is actually measuring something meaningful.   So we use it as a sort of benchmark for everything from tax progressivity to Gini coefficients.

The beauty of the progressive consumption tax is:

1.  No tax forms for 90% of Americans, it’s automatically collected like FICA.

2.  It’s fair to high savers, treating them equally to spendthrifts.

3.  It encourages more saving and less consumption, which America desperately needs.  This raises economic growth.

The ideal tax system would be:

1.  Externality taxes such as a carbon tax.

2.  A land tax

3.  A progressive consumption tax, preferably on wages and salaries (as the VAT is harder to make progressive.)

4.  If we opt for the high-tax Nordic model, you might also need a VAT.

But why go for the high-tax model, when the lowest-taxed developed country entity in the world has the best infrastructure?  And the second lowest-taxed rich country also has enviable infrastructure plus universal health care combined with a Japanese-level life expectancy?

It would only take four things to make me become a card-carrying Democrat:

1.  If they dumped Keynesianism and favored using monetary policy to target NGDP

2.  If they favored replacing our current tax system with a progressive consumption tax

3.  If they favored replacing the public school monopoly with universal vouchers.

4.  HSAs through forced saving plus subsidies for the lower incomes

Progressive blogger Matt Yglesias already agrees with me on the first two, and Sweden adopted the third.  Singapore combines the 4th with universal health care.  So how can any progressive call me a reactionary Chicago-school economist?

I suppose what’s holding back vouchers in America is liberal sensitivity regarding our troubled racial history, and also a fear of religious schools.  But that’s for another post.

So why the inflammatory title of the post?  I hope I showed that “income” is meaningless if it includes capital income.  It is misleading because it leads people to talk about the share of “income” earned by the top 1% as if it is all actual labor income, whereas it is often mostly capital income, aka deferred consumption and not income at all.  And it’s harmful because it leads to the establishment of an extremely annoying, inefficient, and sometimes even repressive system called the income tax.  And it punishes thrift and rewards spendthrifts.

PS.  Of course there are real world problems with estimating wage income.  How should we deal with the self-employed?  One option might be to tax income from proprietorships, allowing the expensing of investments.  I hope commenter Mark can help me out here, as it’s been 30 years since I read any public finance and am relying on my feeble memory.

Update:  A commenter pointed out that Steve Landsburg did a similar post just a few days ago.