Legend has it that in November 1974 Arthur Laffer, a young economist, drew a curve on a napkin in a Washington bar, linking AVERAGE tax rates to total tax revenue. Initially, higher tax rates would increase revenue, but at some point further increases in tax rates would cause revenue to fall, for instance by discouraging people from working. The curve became an icon of supply-side ECONOMICS. Some economists said that it proved that most governments could raise more revenue by cutting tax rates, an argument that was often cited in the 1980s by the tax-cutting governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Other economists reckoned that most countries were still at a point on the curve at which raising tax rates would increase revenue. The lack of empirical evidence meant that nobody could really be sure where the United States and other countries were on the Laffer curve. However, after the Reagan administration cut tax rates revenue fell at first. American tax rates were already low compared with some countries, especially in continental Europe, and it remains possible that these countries are at a point on the Laffer curve where cutting tax rates would pay.
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