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Public Finance: Essay for the Encyclopedia of Public Choice

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  • Harvey S. Rosen

    (Princeton University)

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    Abstract

    Public Finance is the branch of economics that studies the taxing and spending activities of government. The term is something of a misnomer, because the fundamental issues are not financial (that is, relating to money). Rather, the key problems relate to the use of real resources. For this reason, some practitioners prefer the label public sector economics or simply public economics. Public finance encompasses both positive and normative analysis. Positive analysis deals with issues of cause and effect, for example, “If the government cuts the tax rate on gasoline, what will be the effect on gasoline consumption?” Normative analysis deals with ethical issues, for example, “Is it fairer to tax income or consumption?” Modern public finance focuses on the microeconomic functions of government, how the government does and should affect the allocation of resources and the distribution of income. For the most part, the macroeconomic functions of government--the use of taxing, spending, and monetary policies to affect the overall level of unemployment and the price level--are covered in other fields.

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    File URL: http://www.princeton.edu/ceps/workingpapers/80rosen.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies. in its series Working Papers with number 122.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:cepsud:80rosen

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    1. Gilbert E. Metcalf, 2006. "Tax Incidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0607, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
      • Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2002. "Tax incidence," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 26, pages 1787-1872 Elsevier.
    2. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
    3. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
    4. Holcombe, R.G., 1998. "Tax Policy from Public Choice Perspective," Working Papers 1998_03_02, Department of Economics, Florida State University.
    5. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
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