Is It Really the Money?

Greg Mankiw complains that if taxes go up for people with incomes as high as his, he won’t work as hard and that means he won’t be able to leave as much for his kids. Incentives matter he says. If that’s the case, I wonder why someone who is trying to take away the incentive for his kids to work hard and be successful on their own doesn’t leave academia and become a high paid consultant.

I’m sure Greg Mankiw could clean up as a consultant. The same effort he puts into academics would be much more highly compensated somewhere else. The fact that he decided to become an academic in the first place indicates that it’s not all about the money.

As Greg Mankiw makes clear every chance he gets, he’s at Harvard. That tells me that the return to his ego is every bit as important as the financial return. I’d further guess that even if the New York Times stopped paying him for his column, he’d write it anyway. It’s a boost to his ego and reputation that he’d want even without whatever small payment he gets for each column (he could make more by using the time to prepare a talk “to a business group, consulting on a legal case, [or] giving a guest lecture,” so the opportunity cost of the column is quite high).

But, I suppose we will see. If taxes do go up, I expect Greg Mankiw to give up his NY Times column — he’s implied it just won’t be worth it — so we shall see if he really means what he says:

Now you might not care if I supply less of my services to the marketplace — although, because you are reading this article, you are one of my customers.

If taxes do go up and he doesn’t give up the column, then we’ll know he was mostly blowing smoke.

Oh, and did you hear that Greg Mankiw is at Harvard?

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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