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Optimal Provision of Public Goods: A Synthesis

  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner
  • Nicolaj Verdelin

There currently exist two competing approaches in the literature on the optimal provision of public goods. The standard approach highlights the importance of distortionary taxation and distributional concerns. The new approach neutralizes distributional concerns by adjusting the non-linear income tax, and finds that this reinvigorates the simple Samuelson rule when preferences are separable in goods and leisure. We provide a synthesis by demonstrating that both approaches derive from the same basic formula. We further develop the new approach by deriving a general, intuitive formula for the optimal level of a public good without imposing strong assumptions on preferences. This formula shows that distortionary taxation may have a role to play as in the standard approach. However, the main determinants of optimal provision are completely different and the traditional formula with its emphasis on MCF only obtains in a very special case.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1467-9442.2011.01686.x
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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Scandinavian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 114 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 384-408

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Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:114:y:2012:i:2:p:384-408
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  1. Joel Slemrod & Shlomo Yitzhaki, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," NBER Working Papers 8196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The desirability of commodity taxation under non-linear income taxation and heterogeneous tastes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 217-230, February.
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  19. Christiansen, Vidar, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 447-57, July.
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