Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. His research addresses economic and philosophical aspects of justice between generations, and he is particularly interested in policies that affect budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs, and Social Security.

Columns by Neil H. Buchanan
Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a Pre-Documentary? What an Autocracy—Theocratic or Otherwise—Looks Like: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a pre-documentary—not in that it predicts what literally will happen in the United States, but in that it accurately describes America’s shift toward becoming a dystopia. Professor Buchanan points out that the mechanisms are already in place for an autocratic government to dispossess citizens of their property, and the rest can be changed at will.

Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a Pre-Documentary? The Surprisingly Interesting (and Scary) Financial Side of the Story

In this first of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the financial situation in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (specifically, the TV series version based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel) is entirely possible in real life under current US law. Professor Buchanan points out that currency is merely a construct based on perceived value, and strategic changes in policies by an autocratic government could easily deprive anyone of money they think is “theirs.”

Could the Next Coup Attempt Hinge on the Meaning of the Twelfth Amendment? Why Risk it?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Democrats should expressly reject (rather than implicitly accept) Republicans’ erroneous interpretation of the Twelfth Amendment, on the off chance it matters in the next coup attempt. Professor Buchanan explains why the Twelfth Amendment’s fallback provision applies only when the Electoral College vote is a tie.

So-Called Cancel Culture Is a Vacant Concept, So It Can Be Turned Back Against the Culture Warriors

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the label of “cancel culture” is a vacant concept, but because of its now widespread use, we should overuse the phrase so as to dilute and mock it. Professor Buchanan points out that, despite current popular opinion, the right to speak is not the same as a right to have other people listen.

No, America Does Not Have a Free Speech Problem—At Least, Not the One The New York Times’s Editors Imagine

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan responds to a recent editorial in The New York Times lamenting the alleged erosion of the American right to speak one’s mind and voice one’s opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned. Professor Buchanan explains why the editorial board erroneously conflates the right to free speech with an expectation of speech without consequences.

Second Thoughts? How the Anti-Government Protests in Canada Affect Americans Who Might Want to Move There

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his exploration of options available to Americans who are considering emigrating, considering whether the anti-government protests in Canada affect his calculus. Professor Buchanan argues that the recent news from Canada does not come close to tipping the balance toward staying the United States.

Fighting Lies with Deceptions: Inflation Politics in 2022, Part Two

In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains that there is nothing a president can do to reduce inflation, but there are certain things a president should do to appear to be doing something. Professor Buchanan argues that Biden administration’s announcement that it will intensify the fight against monopolies serves precisely that purpose and achieves some good in the process.

Fighting Lies with Deceptions: Inflation Politics in 2022, Part One

In this first of a two-part series of columns on inflation, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the current concern over inflation is nonsense. He explains that the measured inflation rate is an average of all price changes, and a healthy economy will see some prices rise at any given time.

Where Else to Move?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his consideration of where Americans privileged enough to be able to move might be able to go to escape an increasingly authoritarian United States. Professor Buchanan offers some additional thoughts about the United Kingdom (the focus of his last Verdict column) and explores the possibility of Canada. He points out that the problem of expatriation in response to political instability and violence directly or indirectly affects both those who move and those who remain behind.

Where to Move?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers where, if anywhere, Americans looking to emigrate from a dying democracy might land. After pointing out that guns are the largest threat to safety in the United States and that practically anywhere else would be safer, Professor Buchanan considers whether the UK is a viable choice, given that the ugliness that has emerged in the United States is being mirrored there to a concerning degree.

Repealing the Republicans’ Attack on State and Local Taxes Is Good Politics and Progressive Policy

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains the legal and policy reasons for reinstating the state and local taxes (SALT) deduction that Republicans severely limited in 2017. Professor Buchanan argues that the purpose of limiting the SALT deduction was to harm poor people in states that had robust social spending programs, so Democrats should unapologetically seize the opportunity to undo any unconstitutional provision designed in the first place as a political hit job.

Democracy Is Dying, But We Do Not Have to Lose Our Souls

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the present political situation is somewhat like the plot of Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory,” in that a supposedly preferable solution involves throwing powerless people to the wolves, simply for other people’s benefit.

Using Legalistic Lawlessness to Protect the Wealthy from the Indignity of Paying Taxes: Part Two of Two

In this second in a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan shows how much of a stretch it would be to say—as conservatives are saying—that all taxes on wealth are unconstitutional and that all progressive taxes are taxes on wealth. Professor Buchanan argues that even if the now-defunct Billionaires Tax proposed by Democrats were a tax on wealth, rather than income, that classification would still not categorically violate the Constitution.

Legalistic Lawlessness and the Strategic Use of Repudiated Supreme Court Precedents, Part One of Two

In this first of a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, even though Democrats’ so-called Billionaires Tax is not moving forward, there is much to learn from the flurry of commentary published just before it failed. Professor Buchanan explains how easy it would be for a motivated Supreme Court to mangle logic and precedent to make it more difficult for Congress to enact taxes that would collect revenues from the richest Americans, even if the United States soon becomes a one-party autocracy under permanent Republican, non-majoritarian rule.

The Proposed Tax on Billionaires’ Income Is Most Assuredly Constitutional, Unless the Supreme Court Simply Makes Stuff Up

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Democrats’ proposed tax on billionaires does not violate any part of the Constitution, despite claims to the contrary. Professor Buchanan argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, in normal times, should recognize that there is no constitutional barrier to the proposed tax, but this ultra-conservative majority Court could defy text and logic and create a new law from whole cloth, as it has done before on other issues.

Three Threats to Future Generations: Should COVID-19 Change Our Thinking About Climate Disaster or the End of Democracy?

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers whether the current COVID-19 pandemic changes the way we think about the ongoing crises of climate catastrophe and the escalating threats to the rule of law. Perhaps counterintuitively, Professor Buchanan concludes that neither this pandemic nor even the threat of future pandemics changes how we should think about our obligations to future generations because nothing about it requires our focus to the exclusion of those two existing threats.

Only the Most Extreme Debt Ceiling Insanity Could Turn the ‘Big Coin Option’ into the Least-Bad Choice: So, Be Prepared!

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to proposals that the so-called Big Coin option could alleviate the debt ceiling crisis. Professor Buchanan argues that this option, by which the Treasury would mint a platinum coin and designate its value at some arbitrarily high number to allow the government to continue paying its bills, is likely not the best solution to the contrived problem of debt ceiling.

The “Americans Are Not Deadbeats Act”: Republicans Have Given Democrats a Gilded Political Path to Killing the Debt Ceiling

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Democrats have a clear path to eliminating the debt ceiling crisis once and for all. Professor Buchanan explains that the Democrats should employ the so-called Gephardt Rule, under which the debt ceiling is increased automatically as part of every taxing and spending bill that Congress passes.

Why Do We Continue to Use Loaded Words Even When We Know that They Have No Meaning?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explores the frequent phenomenon where people fall back on empty words and phrases, even when they have been convinced that those phrases are empty. Professor Buchanan relates some anecdotes demonstrating the phenomenon and calls for people to relearn and remember when they are saying words that communicate nothing, lest they lapse into reinforcing meaninglessness.