from the world's big
What if you could choose where your tax dollars went?
Half the pain of paying taxes is having no control over where it goes. This Harvard professor has a great idea to give people more of a voice... and it involves just a very slight change in something as boring as a parking ticket.
Michael I. Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, and a member of Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University. Prior to joining HBS, Professor Norton was a Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
He is the co-author - with Elizabeth Dunn - of the book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.
Michael Norton: When we started studying people paying their taxes we were kind of looking for a real pain point that people have. If you think about what’s the worst day of the year for you, often the worst day of the year is when you have to write that extra check to the IRS. And of course partly we hate it just because we have to give money away that we wish we could keep, but we thought there might be some other underlying psychology going on for why we hate paying taxes so much.
And if you think about it when you send that check off you kind of have no idea what happens with it. I mean you know it’s going to your state or federal government, but you don’t really know what it’s being used for. You look outside and you see roads and there’s some link between those in some way or another but you don’t really know exactly what’s happening.
And that decoupling between what you’re sending in and what the output is is actually pretty aversive for us, we kind of like to know when we do something what’s going to happen as a result.
And so what we try to do in our research is recouple those two things closer together. So imagine, for example, when you pay your taxes you write in the amount and then you can allocate where you want things to go. You could actually say I want more of my taxes to go to schools versus roads versus the military or the reverse if you wanted to support the military more. And the idea there was sure we still wouldn’t like paying taxes that much because we wish we could spend our money on ourselves, but recoupling the cost and the benefits might actually help us hate it a little bit less.
We’ve talked to a lot of governments, local governments, state governments, federal governments in the U.S. and around the world about implementing this idea of recoupling tax payments with the benefits that citizens get. Politically it’s quite difficult, so you can imagine that if you talk about letting citizens allocate all of their money wherever they want you might not get funding for really basic things like infrastructure that aren’t really that exciting for people to think about.
So politically there’s a real risk to kind of opening up democracy where instead of taxes going into a pool where elected officials decide what needs to be done, each individual citizen has a voice. One way we’ve tried to deal with that is to think about maybe you don’t need to allocate 100 percent of your taxes wherever you want, but what if I said at the end of the year you know what, you’re going to get to allocate ten percent wherever you want. So most of your taxes are still going to be the old way where they go into a general pool and then the people we’ve elected who we in theory trust will decide where the money goes, but we still as citizens get to say a little bit more about what we want to do. And some cities in the United States have started doing this through something called participatory budgeting.
And the idea there is that a city can take some tax money, it could be a small amount, it could be a large amount, the city of Cambridge where I live has done this, and let citizens vote for where that money should go. So they’re not getting access to all of the tax revenue for the entire city, but the city is saying we want to set aside some money where citizens can actually tell us where it should go and we will follow through and make sure the money goes there. And again, that helps citizens see that, it’s called participatory budgeting, they’re actually participating and getting to make specific decisions about what happens with their taxes.
One of the things that w'eve thought about are that taxes are big. So if you think about changing the entire tax system that can be politically difficult. It sort of changes the nature of the relationship between our money and the federal government. But you can think about smaller sort of initiatives where it's not the entire tax revenue of an entire city or a country, but you can imagine my colleague Kate Lamberton at Pittsburgh, has shown for example that you can allocate your parking fines. Where you get a ticket on your car and you're furious because of course you've parked in the right place and it's unjust that you get a ticket... what if even just on that parking ticket it could be twenty five or fifty dollars - even there you might be able to say just a little bit on the margin I'd like the fee to go to this in my city instead of that in my city. Now you're not changing the whole political system of taxation, but you're still changing the relationship between citizens and government on a real pain point which is of course you're paying fines and fees that you've incurred, but I can now tell the city yeah it's true that I parked in the wrong place and will now pay you but I'll give you a little voice in where that money goes and I might feel a little bit better in now paying that.
Tax Day is one of the most stressful days of the year for pretty much every American, and the biggest gripe about taxes is that most of us have no idea where the money goes. In an age where military spending is off the charts and government officials are taking private planes at the taxypayer expense it's no small secret that the other 99% of us would like a say in where our hard earned money goes to. But changing that system is a huge undertaking. What Michael Norton suggests is easy to start small and change just some of that pool of money to reflect what the people want. It would be easy to implement; there's even some cities in America that are already doing it. Michael's has co-written a book that covers this and other subjects called Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending. Professor Norton’s studies are cited in The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot.
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Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
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- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.