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Making A Difference

Exploring tax policy and our quality of life

Matthew Weinzierl

For Professor Matthew Weinzierl, tax policy is about much more than dollars and cents. The questions of why we tax and what we tax, and similar policy decisions, offer a window on our society. “People don’t always understand the technical details of these policies; but that’s not really the point,” says Weinzierl. “The point is: people are debating much bigger questions. What do we want this society to be like?”

Through economics—and a little humor—Weinzierl’s research parses how people answer that question. Should tall people pay higher taxes than short people? Weinzierl asks in one paper. He’s exploring how people feel about making taxation decisions based on personal attributes, which current US tax policy does. Some of his other research, in part for his elective curriculum course at HBS, has examined social security, health care reform, and the estate tax.

Despite—and, in fact, because of—the heated arguments that discussion of these topics can spark, Weinzierl’s research has made him hopeful about our ability to find common ground. “The fact that we are yelling at each other so much about this makes me think that we are actually hashing them out,” he says.

(Published May 2015)