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Public versus Private Provision of Public Goods

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  • Sita Nataraj Slavov

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Occidental College)

Abstract

It is well known that pure public goods are underprovided in static games with private, voluntary contributions. Public provision is usually modeled using a median voter framework, in which the public good is funded by a proportional income tax. This paper compares the private and public provision of public goods in dynamic settings. With private provision, it is possible to sustain cooperation and provide the public good efficiently. With public provision, dynamic majority-rule solutions exist even when taxes are not restricted to be proportional to income; thus, income redistribution can be chosen jointly with the level of the public good. At low discount factors, private provision tends to result in lower levels of the public good relative to public provision. As patience increases, however, public provision results in lower levels of the public good than private provision. This occurs because higher levels of income redistribution are sustainable under public provision. Such redistribution becomes increasingly feasible at higher discount factors, resulting in income subsidies for particular groups instead of higher levels of the public good. In contrast, under private provision, all groups are forced to settle for increases in the level of the public good. In terms of financing the public good, private provision tends to result in benefit taxation, with little variation in individual contribution rates. Public provision allows a wider range of tax rates, although there is a tendency towards benefit taxation when preferences vary and progressive taxation when incomes vary.

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File URL: http://faculty.oxy.edu/sslavov/Slavov_public_good.pdf
File Function: Revised version, 2006
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Occidental College, Department of Economics in its series Occidental Economics Working Papers with number 2.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision: Mar 2006
Handle: RePEc:occ:wpaper:2

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Keywords: majority rule; Condorcet winner; public goods; voluntary donations; dynamic games;

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References

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  1. Clive Fraser, 2003. "Is the public sector too large in a democracy?," Discussion Papers in Economics 03/12, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  2. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano, 2003. "Collective Choice and Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 545-572, 05.
  3. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1986. "On the Voluntary and Involuntary Provision of Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 789-93, September.
  4. Dickson, Eric S & Shepsle, Kenneth A, 2001. "Working and Shirking: Equilibrium in Public-Goods Games with Overlapping Generations of Players," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 285-318, October.
  5. Nicola Persico & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2001. "The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 225-239, March.
  6. Leslie M. Marx & Steven A. Matthews, . ""Dynamic Voluntary Contribution to a Public Project''," CARESS Working Papres 99-01, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  7. Wojciech Olszewski & Howard Rosenthal, 2004. "Politically Determined Income Inequality and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 6(5), pages 707-735, December.
  8. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Privately provided public goods in a large economy: The limits of altruism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 57-73, February.
  9. Bergstrom, Ted C, 1979. " When Does Majority Rule Supply Public Goods Efficiently?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 216-26.
  10. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
  11. Borcherding, Thomas E & Deacon, Robert T, 1972. "The Demand for the Services of Non-Federal Governments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 891-901, December.
  12. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1979. "Bureaucrats versus Voters: On the Political Economy of Resource Allocation by Direct Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 563-87, November.
  13. Warr, Peter G., 1983. "The private provision of a public good is independent of the distribution of income," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 207-211.
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Cited by:
  1. B. D. Bernheim & S. N. Slavov, 2009. "A Solution Concept for Majority Rule in Dynamic Settings," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 33-62.

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