Should we just start taxing workaholics?

As marketers know all too well, there’s a long history of taxing certain vices in the hope of reducing consumers’ indulgence in them. Thus do we have special taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco, to take two obvious examples. And it wouldn’t be wildly surprising if do-gooders succeed in having “sin taxes” slapped on such public menaces as fast food and soft drinks. A less predictable proposal comes from economics/public-policy professor Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan and colleague Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas. The vice they’d like to see squelched by taxation: workaholism. The rationale, explains a bulletin from the University of Michigan, is that workaholism is “linked to a variety of health problems, including exhaustion, stress and high blood pressure, and can take an emotional and mental toll on a worker’s family.” As if that weren’t enough, workaholism is such an “addictive behavior” that people of retirement age often find themselves unable to go “cold turkey” and quit their jobs. The  professors helpfully suggest that an “appropriate corrective policy for workaholics—who tend to make more money—might involve a more progressive income tax burden.” Their research indicates that workaholics “acquire their addiction early in their careers,” which suggests we should view summer jobs and internships as akin to entry-level drugs. We can only pray that workaholism isn’t a major affliction for those of you who spend your time scrolling through AdFreak postings.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver