Recently, the Washington Post surveyed a number of economists on how high the top income tax rate could go before revenues began to decline due to a “Laffer Curve” effect. It would be easy to conclude from some of the more conservative contributors, as well recent comments by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asserting that all tax cuts pay for themselves, that supply-side economics is nothing but a lot of hokum.
However, once upon a time, those that called themselves to be supply-siders were serious people who made important arguments based on careful analysis and didn’t just dogmatically recite the Republican Party line as they do today. A small journal, no longer in existence, called The Public Interest was their primary forum. Since all of the archives of this journal are now freely available, I went through and pulled together some of the most important contributions to the origin and development of supply-side economics.
Jude Wanniski, “The Mundell-Laffer Hypothesis—A New View of the World Economy,” Spring 1975. This is the very first published statement of the Laffer Curve. At the time Wanniski was an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal.
David Stockman, “The Social Pork Barrel,” Spring 1975. Stockman was later director of the Office of Management and Budget during Ronald Reagan’s first term. When he wrote this he was a congressional staffer.
Edgar Browning, “How Much More Equality Can We Afford?” Spring 1976.
Paul Craig Roberts, “The Breakdown of the Keynesian Model,” Summer 1978. Roberts had been Rep. Jack Kemp’s staff economist and later replaced Wanniski at the Wall Street Journal.
Alan Reynolds, “Reality in One Lesson,” Fall 1978.
David Stockman, “The Wrong War? The Case Against a National Energy Policy,” Fall 1978. By the time Stockman wrote this he had been elected to the House of Representatives.
Jude Wanniski, “Taxes, Revenues, and the ‘Laffer Curve,’” Winter 1978. This is an excerpt from Wanniski’s 1978 book, “The Way the World Works.”
Martin Anderson, “The Roller-Coaster Income Tax,” Winter 1978.
Martin Feldstein, “The Retreat from Keynesian Economics,” Summer 1981. Feldstein’s early work on capital gains and the incentive effects of taxation were extremely important to the development of supply-side economics.
George Gilder, “A Supply-Side Economics of the Left,” Summer 1983. Gilder’s 1981 best-seller, “Wealth and Poverty,” was an important contribution to supply-side economics. He also wrote much of the document Reagan sent to Congress in February 1981 asking for an across-the-board cut in income tax rates.
John Mueller, “A Supply-Side Scorecard,” Fall 1983. Mueller was a long time Kemp staffer.
Paul Craig Roberts, "'Supply-Side’ Economics—Theory and Results,” Fall 1988.
Bruce Bartlett is an American historian and columnist who focuses on the intersection between politics and economics. He blogs daily and writes a weekly column at The Fiscal Times. Read his most recent column here. Bartlett has written for Forbes Magazine and Creators Syndicate, and his work is informed by many years in government, including as a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House. He is the author of seven books including the New York Times best-seller, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy (Doubleday, 2006).