Friday, December 30, 2011

How tariffs stripped the X-Men of their humanity

You probably did not realize that the official legal position of Marvel is that contrary to the general thematic content of the Marvel Universe, mutants are not people. A recent Radiolab podcast brings the shocking true story, but it's easy enough to summarize: Marvel-licensed action figures are generally made abroad and imported into the United States. But "dolls" (which are representations of people) face a higher import duty than "toys" (which are representations of non-humans), so it's in the interests of Marvel to argue that X-Men action figures should be taxed at the low non-tariff rate. ...

What we have here is a federal 12% sales tax on dolls, but only if the dolls are made in foreign countries, and a different -- arbitrarily lower -- 6.8% federal sales tax on toys, but again only if the toys are made in foreign countries.
--Matthew Yglesias, Slate, on another casualty of tariff distortions