Taxing Britney Spears heavilyMay 7th, 2010 by ftobia
First I’m going to note (or assume) some things about celebrity. Celebrity is a scarce resource. Celebrities are like monopolistically competitive goods since there’s only one of each but they can be substituted for other goods or other celebrities. I also assume that there are at least some classes of celebrities where they aren’t intrinsically valuable. For example, many people can sing and dance and be scantily clad on occasion, but only some people can be Britney Spears. I’m not sure if this is true, but I am assuming that some celebrities are just anointed, somehow chosen by the demigods of entertainment, for no particular earthly reason. The best example I can think of right now is Paris Hilton. She would just be another nobody with a sex tape on the internets if her family hadn’t been rich and famous.
If the above is a reasonable approximation of reality, then celebrities should be taxed. Specifically, the quantity we define as “celebrity” should be taxed. Heavily. Notice this is not about taxing celebrities for doing productive things, but instead taxing them just because they have celebrity. The fact of the matter is that they already have lots of fringe benefits of being a celebrity, like getting to go to all the cool clubs and hanging out with all the cool people or whatever. And they should profit a little bit from their celebrity. But they shouldn’t profit to the tune of millions and millions of dollars.
I am thinking here of the case of Britney Spears. It’s my opinion that pretty much any young attractive girl with a decent singing voice could have replaced Britney Spears and would have had the same ride, except maybe she wouldn’t have gone crazy a while back. Celebrity in this case amounts to a huge arbitrary redistribution of wealth. Why Britney and not some other girl who could have made it? I can’t think of a reason. Since celebrity is an important resource, and a scarce resource of that, we should treat it as a public resource. And we should regulate it with some sort of average cost pricing, like we do with power plants and water companies.
Of course then we run into having to design mechanisms to track, measure, and tax celebrity. I know it’d be really hard to do. But I still think it would be cool.