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Spreading the Wealth Around: Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber

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  • N. Gregory Mankiw

Abstract

This essay discusses the policy debate concerning optimal taxation and the distribution of income. It begins with a brief overview of trends in income inequality, the leading hypothesis to explain these trends, and the distribution of the tax burden. It then considers the framework that economists use to address the normative problem of designing tax systems. The conventional utilitarian approach is found to be wanting, as it leads to prescriptions that conflict with many individuals’ moral intuitions. The essay then explores an alternative normative framework, dubbed the Just Deserts Theory, according to which an individual’s compensation should reflect his or her social contribution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15846.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Publication status: published as N Gregory Mankiw, 2010. "Spreading the Wealth Around: Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 285-298.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15846

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Cited by:
  1. Thomas Cornelissen & Oliver Himmler & Tobias König, 2010. "Fairness Spillovers - The Case of Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 3217, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Karanassou, Marika & Sala, Hector, 2011. "Inequality and Employment Sensitivities to the Falling Labour Share," IZA Discussion Papers 5796, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Positive and Normative Judgments Implicit in U.S. Tax Policy, and the Costs of Unequal Growth and Recessions," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-119, Harvard Business School.

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