The art of ‘death elasticity’

From the Department of Trying Too Hard comes today’s Fiscal Cliff Story of the Day.

CNBC reports that the fiscal cliff will change the estate tax rules, so wealthy people might consider dying as part of a year-end financial review:


It may seem incredible to contemplate pulling the plug on grandma to save tax dollars. While we know that investors will sell stocks to avoid rising capital gains taxes, accelerating the death of a loved one seems at least a bit morbid–perhaps even evil. Will people really make life and death decisions based on taxes? Do we don our green eye shades when it comes to something this serious?

There is good evidence that there is some “elasticity” in the timing of important decisions about life and death.

It’s well-known that people can delay death, for example, in order to live through significant dates–birthdays, holidays, anniversaries. In the first week of 2000, local New York City hospitals recorded an astonishing 50.8 percent more deaths than in the last week of 1999, according to the New York Times. Apparently, a significant number of people delayed their deaths in order to see the new millennium.

The writer predicts more people — wealthy people, mind you — will die before Tuesday as a result of the enhanced tax benefits of doing so.

  • B Joe

    If the elasticity is a real phenomenon, it’s just more evidence of the pathological greed that lays beneath discussions about tax reform in the US.