Consumer Law As Tax Alternative
8 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2017 Last revised: 18 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 19, 2017
Policymakers and scholars have in distributional conversations traditionally ignored consumer laws. Tax law dominates distributional conversations partly because legal rules are seen as less efficient and partly because consumer law research speaks to narrow and siloed contexts. Even millions of dollars in reduced credit card fees seem trivial compared to the trillion-dollar growth in income inequality that has sparked concern in recent decades. This Article is the first to synthesize the fragmented studies quantifying inefficiently higher consumer prices across diverse markets — called overcharge. These studies indicate that laws reducing overcharge could make a substantial reduction in inequality. Moreover, this massive redistribution would be driven by laws making markets more competitive, rather than tax increases that distort markets. If the empirical literature currently available is right, consumer law — defined more broadly as including antitrust and consumer protection — merits serious consideration as an alternative to tax.
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