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Efficiency and Redistribution: An Evaluative Review of Louis Kaplow's The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics

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  • Robin Boadway

Abstract

Louis Kaplow proposes a two-step methodology for normative policy analysis and illustrates it using various policy reforms. The first step is to identify efficiency gains when hypothetical lump-sum taxes can undo redistributive consequences. The second step evaluates the redistributive effects using a strictly welfaristic social welfare function. I critically review the foundations for Kaplow's procedure and its reliance on strict welfarism. I argue that basing efficiency gains on hypothetical lump-sum tax adjustment can lead to social welfare reducing policies if such tax adjustments are not carried out. I also indicate some conceptual problems with translating welfarism into policy evaluation when individuals have different utility function, and review one promising alternative approach.(JEL H20, H41, H50)

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway, 2010. "Efficiency and Redistribution: An Evaluative Review of Louis Kaplow's The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 964-979, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:48:y:2010:i:4:p:964-79
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.48.4.964
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kaplow, Louis, 2006. "On the undesirability of commodity taxation even when income taxation is not optimal," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1235-1250, August.
    2. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2006. "Wealth transfer taxation: a survey of the theoretical literature," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
    3. Boadway, Robin & Keen, Michael, 1993. "Public Goods, Self-Selection and Optimal Income Taxation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(3), pages 463-478, August.
    4. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    5. Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931.
    6. Konishi, Hideo, 1995. "A Pareto-improving commodity tax reform under a smooth nonlinear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 413-446, March.
    7. Nava, Mario & Schroyen, Fred & Marchand, Maurice, 1996. "Optimal fiscal and public expenditure policy in a two-class economy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 119-137, July.
    8. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
    9. Paul A. Samuelson, 1950. "Evaluation Of Real National Income," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-29.
    10. Coate, Stephen, 2000. "An Efficiency Approach to the Evaluation of Policy Changes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(463), pages 437-455, April.
    11. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
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    Cited by:

    1. Widiyanti, Dwi Retno, 2015. "Redistribution Adjusts Efficiency In Economy; Islamic Paradigm," MPRA Paper 67809, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Nov 2015.
    2. Odd E. Nygård & John T. Revesz, 2015. "Optimal indirect taxation and the uniformity debate: A review of theoretical results and empirical contributions," Discussion Papers 809, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    3. Keuschnigg, Christian, 2011. "Intra- und intergenerative Gerechtigkeit in der Finanzpolitik," Economics Working Paper Series 1137, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    4. Hultkrantz, Lars & Svensson, Mikael, 2012. "A Comparison of Benefit Cost and Cost Utility Analysis in Practice: Divergent Policies in Sweden," Karlstad University Working Papers in Economics 1, Karlstad University, Department of Economics.
    5. Nyborg, Karine, 2014. "Project evaluation with democratic decision-making: What does cost–benefit analysis really measure?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 124-131.
    6. John T. Revesz, 2014. "A Numerical Model of Optimal Differentiated Indirect Taxation," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 211(4), pages 9-66, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General

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