The grand challenge of economics is to allow each voter to play with the tax code at a detailed level -- and combine these results in a meaningful way into The Tax Code. That is they should be able to say that a person with an income in the range of $80,000 to $100,000 with two kids in an expensive suburb, whose income, 30% comes from investments and the rest from working should pay thirty four percent in taxes.
We have had many good analyses of how the income tax burden is distributed and whether the wealth or the workers are paying enough, and that half of Americans are not paying any income tax but may be paying Social Security tax as well as state and local taxes.
- And a Dangerous Economist Posting on April Ninth 2010, "Does Everyone Pay Taxes?"
Our Federal Government is a huge insurance company with an army" as Dr. Krugman put it. Thus, the voters also need to say how much money a Colonel who had fifteen years of active duty when he lost his hand to a road side bomb in Afghanistan, how much money should a eighty-year old man earn from Social Security after working 160 quarters and whose total input was $100,000. And who do these interact and what is the optimal way to have people weigh their desire for public programs and their desire to keep the tax burden down, an issue raised at least half a century ago.
This part would use the best of MultiMedia Learning Theory and visualization. ( I was very impressed by E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning by Ruth Colvin Clark and Richard E. Meyer and and Richard E. Mayer, Multimedia Leaarning. There is a science to this, but that is a subject for other posts).
The second part is combining the individual choices and budgets into a tax code and budget. This can be done by Genetic Algorithms, the classical Machine Learning from Examples algorithms (ID3 and C4.5). But another question, building on the grand question of discretion versus the rule of law, is replacing some or all of this tax code by sortition juries who would look at each tax payer's situation holistically, and letting the tax burden be a competition among both businesses and individuals to be "good" as broadly defined by the jury.
Grand ChallengesThere are many other grand challenges and grand challenge lists out there:
- Engineering which is a list of fourteen challenges developed by the National Academy of Engineering by a panel of eighteen indivudals including Google Co-founder Larry Page and J. Craig Venter
- the DARAPA Grand Challenge to develop autonomous vehicles that can drive off road.
- Improve Scientific Result and Data Communication
- global health
- David Hilbert publishing twenty-three unsolved problems in mathematics in 1900
- And in the 1980's, a list of challenges for Computer Science