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Three Sides of Harberger Triangles

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  • James R. Hines, Jr.

Abstract

Harberger triangles are used to calculate the efficiency costs of taxes, government regulations, monopolistic practices, and various other market distortions. This paper considers the historical development of Harberger triangles, the associated theoretical controversies, and the contribution of Harberger triangles to subsequent empirical work and theories of market imperfections. Prior to the publication of Arnold Harberger's papers, economists very rarely estimated deadweight losses. The empirical deadweight loss literature expanded greatly since the 1960s now quite common. Meanwhile, critical evaluation of deadweight loss estimates led to new theories of rent-seeking and other inefficiencies of economies with multiple distortions.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6852.

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Date of creation: Dec 1998
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Publication status: published as Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 13, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 167-188.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6852

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  1. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  2. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  3. Vartia, Yrjo O, 1983. "Efficient Methods of Measuring Welfare Change and Compensated Income in Terms of Ordinary Demand Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 79-98, January.
  4. Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "A General Equilibrium Model for Tax Policy Evaluation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ball85-1, May.
  5. Breslaw, Jon A & Smith, J Barry, 1995. "A Simple and Efficient Method for Estimating the Magnitude and Precision of Welfare Changes," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(3), pages 313-27, July-Sept.
  6. Charles L. Ballard & John B. Shoven & John Whalley, 1985. "The Welfare Cost of Distortions in the United States Tax System: A General Equilibrium Approach," NBER Working Papers 1043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Bovenberg, A Lans & de Mooij, Ruud A, 1997. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 252-53, March.
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