The Role of Second-Best Theory in Public Economics
AbstractThis paper surveys the evolution of the use of the theory of second best in public economics. It argues that much of modern normative public economics can be interpreted as simply applied second-best analysis. The original theory of second best as expounded by Lipsey and Lancaster involved analysing policy in a single-consumer economy with a fixed distortion, and was especially interested in whether marginal cost pricing, or piecemeal prescriptions, could still be maintained. That analysis was subsequently extended to multi-household economies, to multi-distortion cases and to dynamic settings, and became the basis for the optimal tax revolution in public economics. However, more significantly, in the wake of optimal tax analysis and duality theory, the second-best distortion has effectively been made endogenous; and the general government policy problem has been posed as a principal-agent one. The most common method is by assumingnon-observavability of some important household characteristic or behavioural outcome. As a consequence of these developments, most public policy problems can be viewed as special applications of second-best analysis. for example, the general problem of the efficiency-equity trade-off (the 'optimal income tax' problem) and the limit to redistribution can be viewed as second-best problems. A couple of the interesting features of viewing policy problems as second-best problems are as follows. For one, simple policy prescription no longer become possible. For another, seemingly odd types of policies, such as quantity restrictions, in-kind transfers and public provision of social insurance become 'efficient' policy instruments in certain circumstances. The literature also stresses that second-best policies are typically time-inconsistent. In the face of this, standard second-best optima cannot be attained. Optimal time-consistent policies can also include unusual policy instruments that would otherwise beruled out in a second-best setting.
Download InfoTo our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series EPRU Working Paper Series with number 95-06.
Date of creation:
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Øster Farimagsgade 5, Building 26, DK-1353 Copenhagen K., Denmark
Phone: (+45) 3532 4411
Fax: +45 35 32 30 00
Web page: http://www.econ.ku.dk/epru/
More information through EDIRC
Other versions of this item:
- Robin W. Boadway, 1994. "The Role of Second-Best Theory in Public Economics," Working Papers 910, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- PESTIEAU, Pierre, .
"Social insurance and redistribution,"
CORE Discussion Papers RP
-1642, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
- Robin Boadway & Manuel Leite-Monteiro & Maurice Marchand & Pierre Pestieau, 2002. "Social Insurance and Redistribution," Working Papers 1004, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
- BOADWAY, Robin & LEITE-MONTEIRO, Manuel & MARCHAND, Maurice & PESTIEAU, Pierre, 2001. "Social insurance and redistribution," CORE Discussion Papers 2001041, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
- BOADWAY, Robin & LEITE-MONTEIR, Manuel & MARCHAND, Maurice & PESTIEAU, Pierre, . "Social insurance and redistribution," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1643, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
- Richard Lipsey, 2007. "Reflections on the general theory of second best at its golden jubilee," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 349-364, August.
- Zsolt Becsi, 1999. "Heterogeneity and the welfare cost of dynamic factor taxes," Working Paper 99-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
- Horan, Richard D. & Claassen, Roger & Agapoff, Jean & Zhang, Wei, 2004. "Instrument Choice And Budget-Constrained Targeting," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20387, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
- Misch, Florian & Gemmell, Norman & Kneller, Richard Anthony, 2011. "Fiscal policy and growth with complementarities and constraints on government," ZEW Discussion Papers 11-018, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
- Teoría del Segundo Mejor in Wikipedia Spanish ne '')
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Hoffmann).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.