Thoughts on European Inflation and Tax Policy

Michael Heise, Chief Economist at Allianz SE, had some in his op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, but I want to focus on just a couple, for the mindset implied as he—and Europe’s politicians—address inflation and tax policy.

They [tax and ultralow-interest rate policies] encourage risk taking among investors searching for yield, potentially leading to malinvestment. They affect the distribution of income and wealth between the less affluent, who are most affected by low returns on bank deposits, and the wealthier, who tend to benefit most from rising share prices. Finally, perhaps most important, ultralow interest rates discourage savings for retirement and slow down the growth of existing pension assets.

“Ultralow rates encourage risk taking.” Yeah? And? That’s a business decision; no government need be—no government should be—involved in that. A free market will do a far better, far more efficient, with far prompter sanction application job of regulating risk taking businesses.

“Affect the distribution of income and wealth.” Yeah? And? To the extent such distributions can ever be bad, a free market is the best way to raise the prosperity of the least, and if the wealthy get wealthier, so what? The poor still are less poor. No government mandates or regulations can hope to match the prosperity creation that is freedom in the market.

“Ultralow interest rates discourage savings for….” This is true, and the ECB’s decision to artificially depress interest rates is negligently harmful to the poor, the retired, and those trying to save for retirement. Further, ECB and sovereign nation interferences in the market for debt instruments is purely political, and so it’s wholly unpredictable (who can tell when a politician will decide it’s in his interest to do something different?). That unpredictability seriously damages the ability of anyone to save for their future.

Tax policy shouldn’t be used for social engineering; optimally, it should be used only to fund basic government. The free market is a better place—more efficient, and faster acting—than government from which to regulate interest rates and risk. Even in social democrat Europe.

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