Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sitting by the dock of the bay

OK, I’m actually not exactly sitting by the dock of the bay, but I am fairly close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Yesterday I gave a talk at the University of San Francisco Law School concerning U.S. international tax policy, generally in light of my 2014 book on the subject, Fixing U.S. International Taxation.  My aim in the talk, as often, was to work on several levels at once, the idea being to combine comprehensibility to students who are new to the field with having something interesting to say for the experts who were also in the room.  Today I’m staying in San Francisco for an extra day – it’s odd how rarely I’ve been in SF, although a frequent traveler to the Bay Area (I used to have extensive family in Berkeley) – and hoping it doesn’t rain. 

I’ve been thinking for some time that I should write a second edition of Fixing.  I had two reasons, but maybe now there are four.  Reason 1 is that I have an altered and perhaps clearer sense of how to make many of the book’s main points.  (Also, some of my main targets in it, such as the CEN / CIN / CON welfare norms, appear to me to have receded to the point that focusing on them is now less necessary.)

Reason 2 is that a lot has happened internationally since I wrote the book.  I finished the manuscript at a point when OECD-BEPS was just starting.

Reason 3 is that I’m teaching U.S. international tax law for the second straight year, whereas I hadn’t taught it for several years before writing the book.  Without getting too deep into the weeds in a general policy book, there’s a lot of interesting detail that I could use in discussing the various tradeoffs and ambiguities that dot the field.

Reason 4 is that it’s possible U.S. international tax law will change significantly on the ground next year.

But first I have a long way to go on my book on literature and high-end inequality.  Major progress in the last two days, I think, towards nailing down my chapter on E.M. Forster’s Howards End.   But on the other hand it’s trickier than it usually is for my books to figure out exactly what the market is and how best to reach it.  I do think there’s something potentially there.  But judging quality in a project of this sort is so much more subjective than in the things I am more used to.

A big step forward, I think was deciding to eliminate from the book 90+% of the material that appeared in my University of Miami Law Review article from last week, The Mapmaker’s Dilemma in Assessing High-End Inequality.

I like the piece OK, and will be discussing a shortened version of it (minus the in-depth discussion of the optimal income tax literature, Diamond-Saez, etc.) this coming Monday at my high-end inequality colloquium.  But probably too little readership overlap between the details of that sort of academic trawl and my literature chapters.

I've resumed my boycott of U.S. political news, simply because in light of the great risks our country faces I find it too upsetting these days.

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