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Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation

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  • Stiglitz, Joseph E.

Abstract

This paper establishes that, far from being able to derive the principle of horizontal equity from utilitarianism, the principle is actually in- consistent with utilitarianism in a variety of circumstances. We derive conditions under which (a) it is optimal to impose random tax schedules (ex post randomization) ; and (b) it is optimal to randomize the tax schedules imposed on a set of otherwise identical individuals (ex ante randomization). The implications for optimal tax theory are discussed. More generally, it is shown that there are a number of potentially important economic situations with which the principle of horizontal equity may be inconsistent not only with utilitarianism but even with Pareto optimality.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 18 (1982)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 1-33

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:18:y:1982:i:1:p:1-33

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1971. "Increasing risk II: Its economic consequences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 66-84, March.
  2. Rosen, Harvey S, 1978. "An Approach to the Study of Income, Utility, and Horizontal Equity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 307-22, May.
  3. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  4. Joseph E. Stiglitz & Partha Dasgupta, 1970. "Differential Taxation, Public Goods, and Economic Efficiency," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 299, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  5. Weiss, Laurence, 1976. "The Desirability of Cheating Incentives and Randomness in the Optimal Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1343-52, December.
  6. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: Tax Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 261-78, June.
  7. Salop, Steven C, 1979. "Strategic Entry Deterrence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 335-38, May.
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