Sevin Yeltekin: Taxation and the Redistribution of Wealth

– I work on macroeconomics
and I work specifically
on policy issues relating
to the macroeconomy
and probably my earliest
memory of why I wanted to go
into economics and
especially macroeconomics
is I’m originally from Turkey.
And every day, I would be sent out
to buy basic things like bread and milk
and the prices would change.
And I always wanted to understand
how come the prices change
almost every day or every week.
I’m very interested in
especially redistribution,
how we provide services
such as retirement,
health care, unemployment
benefits, education
and how do we do that effectively.
So one of the issues that I have worked on
was to think about how to redistribute
through the taxation system.
Taxes are a contentious issue.
People don’t usually like to pay taxes
and that’s completely normal,
but they are necessary
because we have to pay
for roads and schools
and airports and other public goods
and at the same time,
we do want to provide
some sort of insurance
to the people who get adverse
shocks during their lifetime.
They can get sick, they
can become disabled
and they can be laid off
and we want to think
about how to provide them
with some sort of
benefit during this time,
but we also understand that those
can create adverse incentives.
If we keep paying people
when they’re unemployed,
clearly, they would not have incentives
to go out and find employment.
So most of my research is about
striking the right balance
between providing some sort
of benefits and insurance
but at the same time giving
the people the right incentives
to become productive members of society.
Most of economics is all
about trade offs anyway.
It’s about, you know, on the one hand,
we have scarce resources,
on the other hand,
we want to distribute
them in a particular way.
We care about the people
who need them the most
but at the same time, we
also wanna distribute them
towards people who can use them the best.
So there’s all of these tensions
and economics is really all about kind of
trying to resolve these tensions
to the best of our ability
and think about designing a
system, a policy, a marketplace,
whatever have you to be able to deliver
what we want at the end of the day.

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