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阿瑟·拉弗(Arthur Betz Laffer)
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阿瑟·拉弗(Arthur Betz Laffer)
“拉弗曲線”的提出者——阿瑟·拉弗(Arthur Betz Laffer)

阿瑟·拉弗簡介

  阿瑟·拉弗生於1941年,美國南加利福尼亞大學商學研究院教授,在尼克鬆政府時期曾擔任行政管理和預算局的經濟學家。也許冥冥之中有一種說不清道不明的因素在起作用,當拉弗還是斯坦福大學研究生時,就預言里根會在加利福尼亞州州長競選中獲勝,他的同學對此頗為懷疑,但事實證明拉弗是對的。經過拉弗的努力,拉弗成為里根的“莫逆好友”,這對日後供給學派理論成為“里根經濟學”的核心部分也許起到了一定的作用。里根政府時期,他是總統經濟政策顧問委員會成員。拉弗之所以引人註目,最主要的還是他所提出的描述稅收與稅率之間關係的曲線——“拉弗曲線”,儘管這一曲線最初是畫在華盛頓飯店餐巾紙上的,但由於其對稅收政策影響經濟的解釋更形象、更形式化,從而確立了“拉弗曲線”作為供給學派思想精髓的地位。

“拉弗曲線”的提出

  1974年的一天,經濟學家阿瑟·拉弗和一些著名記者及政治家坐在華盛頓的一家餐館里。他拿來一張餐巾併在上面畫了一幅類似傾斜的拋物線的圖,向在座的人說明稅率與稅收收入

的關係:稅率高到一定程度,總稅收收入不僅不增長,反而開始下降。這便是著名的拉弗曲線。拉弗曲線問世二十多年來,並沒有多少國家的實踐證明拉弗的這一假設,但經濟學家們大都相信:稅收會造成社會總經濟福利的減少,過高的稅率帶給政府的很可能不是稅收增加的美好前景。美國經濟學家曼昆把稅收造成的總福利的減少稱為稅收的“無謂損失”。

  拉弗曲線說明的是這樣一個問題:總是存在產生同樣收益的兩種稅率,所以減稅未必使政府稅收收益減少,於是可以通過減稅增加供給又不用擔心會減少政府收入。如果稅率為零,意味著人們可以獲得生產的全部成果,政府的收益自然就為零。這樣,政府對生產沒有妨礙作用,生產即可達到最大化。但是,由於稅率為零,政府的收益也為零,政府就不可能存在。如果稅率為100%,政府的收益仍為零,這是因為由於人們的所有勞動成果都被政府徵稅,他們就不願意再工作了。生產中斷,自然沒有什麼可供100%的稅,因此,政府的收益就等於零。稅率從0—100%,稅收總額從零回歸至零。在一定的稅率之下,政府的稅收是隨稅率增加而增加的,而一旦稅率再增加而越過轉折點,政府的稅收將隨稅率進一步增加而減少。換句話說,總是存在產生同樣收益的兩種稅率,所以減稅未必使政府稅收收益減少,於是可以通過減稅增加供給又不用擔心會減少政府收入。

Arthur Betz Laffer

14, 1940, Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.

in full Arthur Betz Laffer American economist who propounded the idea that lowering tax rates could result in higher revenues. His theory on taxes influenced U.S. economic policy in the 1980s.

Laffer studied economics at Yale University (B.A., 1963) and international economics at Stanford University (M.B.A., 1965; Ph.D., 1972). As chief economist for the Office of Management and Budget (1970–72), Laffer attracted attention for his supply-side economic theories, which held that reductions in federal taxes on businesses and individuals would lead to increased economic growth and in the long run to increased government revenue.

Laffer drew the famous Laffer curve, which showed that starting from a zero tax rate, increases in tax rates will increase the government's tax revenue; at some point, however, when the rates become high enough, further increases in tax rates will decrease revenue. This occurs because higher tax rates become strong disincentives against earning (and/or declaring) taxable income. Cuts in marginal tax rates could therefore increase tax revenues. Laffer's point was already well known to economists in public finance, but they treated it as an intellectual curiosity. In the late 1970s, Laffer was the first economist to emphasize its possible application to the U.S. income tax system.

The real controversy concerned where the American economy in the 1980s should be located on the Laffer curve. Laffer believed that conditions were right for cuts in tax rates that he predicted would increase tax revenues. He turned out to be wrong about the U.S. economy as a whole but right about a small group of Americans earning more than $200,000 a year and paying, at the time he wrote, a top marginal tax rate of between 50 and 70 percent. Whereas economists before Laffer had ignored the effect of high tax rates on the incentive to earn taxable income, Laffer's emphasis, and the evidence subsequently gathered by others, caused the economists to treat the incentive effect of taxes more seriously than they had. President Ronald Reagan was thought to have based his 1981 economic plan on the idea that cuts in marginal tax rates would increase tax revenues. Reagan's economists projected a large revenue loss from his tax cuts, but they too were wrong: the actual revenue loss was less than had been projected, largely because the cuts in tax rates gave individuals an incentive to earn more taxable income.

Laffer worked as a political consultant while teaching at the University of Chicago (1974–76), the University of Southern California (1976–84), and Pepperdine University (1984–87). He also served as a consultant to the U.S. Treasury and Defense departments (1972–77) and as an economic policy adviser to President Reagan. In 1986 in California Laffer made an unsuccessful attempt for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Laffer is the founder and chairman of Laffer Associates, a San Diego-based economics consulting firm.