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Majority Rule versus Supermajority Rules: Their Effects on Narrow and Broad Taxes


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  • Jac C. Heckelman

    (Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA,

  • Keith L. Dougherty

    (University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA)


Buchanan and Tullock argue that larger supermajority rules reduce tyranny of the majority but should have no effect on the passage of mutually advantageous policies. The authors test this argument by separately analyzing the effect of supermajority requirements on taxes that are targeted toward narrow groups (more redistributive) and taxes targeted toward a broader base (less redistributive), in a panel of fifty states from 1970 to 2008. Regression analysis reveals an inverse relationship between narrow taxes and the size of the majority rule requirement and no relationship between broad taxes and the size of the majority requirement—consistent with the claim of Buchanan and Tullock. The authors also find that Democratic controlled governments have significantly higher tax rates on narrow taxes than Republican controlled governments. The reverse is found for broad taxes, but the result is not as strong.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by in its journal Public Finance Review.

Volume (Year): 38 (2010)
Issue (Month): 6 (November)
Pages: 738-761

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Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:38:y:2010:i:6:p:738-761

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Keywords: taxation; majority rule; constitutional economics; redistribution;


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Cited by:
  1. Keith Dougherty & Brian Pitts & Justin Moeller & Robi Ragan, 2014. "An experimental study of the efficiency of unanimity rule and majority rule," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 359-382, March.
  2. Keith Dougherty, 2012. "Buchanan and Tullock’s apple," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 403-406, September.


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