James D. (“Jim”) Gwartney is one of the best economists and finest gentlemen I know. I’m pleased to dust off and present below an essay he wrote for the Foundation for Economic Education 30 years ago. A professor of economics and policy sciences at Florida State University and an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, he is an expert on taxation, labor policy, and the economic analysis of government. He is co-author of Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about
That brings us to our historic anniversary for the upcoming week. On June 6, 1932, the first federal gas tax was levied, buried in the Revenue Act of 1932. It was “only” 1 percent–one cent per gallon–and it was supposed to be temporary. Right! When have we ever seen a tax that was ever really temporary? They all seem to grow rather than diminish over time. Oh, individual states had levied their own gas taxes much earlier. The first state to do so was Oregon in February 1919.