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Rules, Politics and the Normative Analysis of Taxation


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Taxation has been a much-discussed subject in the literature on economics and in writings on the role and meaning of the state. Over the centuries, many authors have put forward views of what qualifies as "good" taxation and what constitutes undesirable tax policy. Consensus on these issues has changed over time, depending on historical circumstances and prevailing modes of economic thinking. In this chapter, we look at analytical views that enjoy broad acceptance in the current literature on taxation. We call these views "rules" or "norms" of analysis. They represent patterns of thinking that have wide currency or that have become codified in the literature. The chapter describes eight of the most important rules or norms and then critically examines their validity in a framework that makes explicit allowance for collective choice. Our critique leads us to identify several shortcomings and limitations in existing patterns of thinking.

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Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 00-12.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 01 Aug 2000
Date of revision: 2002
Publication status: Published: Revised version in Handbook of Public Finance, ed. Jürgen G. Backhaus and Richard E. Wagner, Norwell, Massachusetts: Kluwer Academic, 2002, Ch. 5 (pp. 109–137)
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:00-12

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Keywords: public economics; public finance; taxation; collective choice; rules;

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  1. Hettich, W. & Winter, S.L., 1993. "The Political Economy of Taxation," Papers, Carleton - Business Administration 93-2, Carleton - Business Administration.
  2. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stern, N H, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 119-28, January.
  3. Hamilton, Jonathan H & Slutsky, Steven, 2000. " Decentralizing Allocation and Distribution by Separation with Information Transfers," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 2(3), pages 289-318.
  4. Lockwood, Ben, 1992. "Commodity Tax Competition Under Destination and Origin Principles," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 733, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Hettich,Walter & Winer,Stanley L., 2005. "Democratic Choice and Taxation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521021807.
  6. Boylan, Richard T & McKelvey, Richard D, 1995. "Voting over Economic Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 860-71, September.
  7. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  8. Wolfgang Eggert, 1999. "Capital Tax Competition with Inefficient Government Spending," CoFE Discussion Paper, Center of Finance and Econometrics, University of Konstanz 99-15, Center of Finance and Econometrics, University of Konstanz.
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Cited by:
  1. Stanley L. Winer & Walter Hettich, 2002. "The Political Economy of Taxation: Positive and Normative Analysis when Collective Choice Matters," Carleton Economic Papers, Carleton University, Department of Economics 02-11, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 2004.


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