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Optimal Provision of Public Goods: A Synthesis

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  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner
  • Nicolaj Verdelin

Abstract

There currently exist two competing approaches in the literature on the optimal provision of public goods. The standard approach highlights the importance of distortionary taxation and distributional concerns. The new approach neutralizes distributional concerns by adjusting the non-linear income tax, and finds that this reinvigorates the simple Samuelson rule when preferences are separable in goods and leisure. We provide a synthesis by demonstrating that both approaches derive from the same basic formula. We further develop the new approach by deriving a general, intuitive formula for the optimal level of a public good without imposing strong assumptions on preferences. This formula shows that distortionary taxation may have a role to play as in the standard approach. However, the main determinants of optimal provision are completely different and the traditional formula with its emphasis on MCF only obtains in a very special case.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2009/wp-cesifo-2009-02/cesifo1_wp2538.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2538.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2538

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Keywords: public good provision; distortionary taxation; distribution;

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References

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  1. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
  2. Lans Bovenberg, A. & Jacobs, Bas, 2005. "Redistribution and education subsidies are Siamese twins," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 2005-2035, December.
  3. Robin Boadway & Michael Keen, 1991. "Public Goods, Self-Selection and Optimal Income Taxation," Working Papers 828, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  4. Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup, 2006. "The marginal cost of public funds: Hours of work versus labor force participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1955-1973, November.
  5. Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1988. "Cash versus Kind, Self-selection, and Efficient Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 691-700, September.
  9. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
  10. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2002. "On the Superiority of Corrective Taxes to Quantity Regulation," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, January.
  11. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-84.
  12. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen & Luca Micheletto, 2008. "Public Provision of Private Goods and Nondistortionary Marginal Tax Rates," CESifo Working Paper Series 2303, CESifo Group Munich.
  13. Saez, Emmanuel, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 205-29, January.
  14. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
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  18. Christiansen, Vidar, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 447-57, July.
  19. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," NBER Working Papers 8196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. repec:dgr:uvatin:2005036 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. 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.
  23. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stern, N H, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 119-28, January.
  24. Christiansen, Vidar, 2007. "Two Approaches to Determine Public Good Provision under Distortionary Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(1), pages 25-43, March.
  25. Dahlby, Bev, 1998. "Progressive taxation and the social marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 105-122, January.
  26. Gahvari, Firouz, 2006. "On the marginal cost of public funds and the optimal provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1251-1262, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Mogens Fosgerau & Kurt Van Dender, 2013. "Road pricing with complications," Transportation, Springer, vol. 40(3), pages 479-503, May.
  2. Felix J. Bierbrauer, 2014. "Optimal Tax and Expenditure Policy with Aggregate Uncertainty," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 205-57, February.
  3. Niehaus, Paul & Sukhtankar, Sandip, 2013. "The marginal rate of corruption in public programs: Evidence from India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 52-64.

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