Should We Tax People for Being Annoying?
By ADAM DAVIDSON
Driving home during the holidays, I found myself trapped in the permanent traffic jam on I-95 near Bridgeport, Conn. In the back seat, my son was screaming. All around, drivers had the menaced, lifeless expressions that people get when they see cars lined up to the horizon. It was enough to make me wish for congestion pricing — a tax paid by drivers to enter crowded areas at peak times. After all, it costs drivers about $16 to enter central London during working hours. A few years ago, it nearly caught on in New York. And on that drive home, I would have happily paid whatever it cost to persuade some other drivers that it wasn’t worth it for them to be on the road.
There are some obvious problems with their approach. Nobody actually knows the precise cost of any negative externality. (Estimates for the collective impact of a ton of carbon range from $1 to $1,500, for instance, which could lead to all kinds of price disagreements on a Pigovian gas tax.) So Mankiw prefers to focus on simpler factors to deduce externalities. It’s not terribly difficult to figure out how many people drive on a certain road per hour and how much time they lose by being stuck in traffic, he told me. Still, he said, “you’ve got to take your best guess.”
New York Times