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Fiscal Equity In Federal Systems

  • Brennan Geoffrey

    (Australian National University /Duke University / University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

  • Pincus Jonathan J.

    (Australian Productivity Commission)

This paper examines the normative foundations of fiscal equalization – an issue handled, apparently decisively, in a classic paper by James Buchanan (1950). Contrary to Buchanan's claims, we argue that fiscal equalization requires extremely strong value judgements – at least in the case where fiscal differences arise from the interaction of public goods provision under different population size – effectively committing one to a Rawlsian maximin rule. Much weaker forms of the 'social welfare function' in this public goods case will generate the requirement that private consumption levels be equalized, but specifically not public consumption levels – in which sense private goods equalization seems normatively weaker than public goods equalization, If this is so, the hope of justifying federal fiscal equalization on the basis of relatively uncontroversial individualistic norms seems illusory.

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Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Review of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 6 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 347-363

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:6:y:2010:i:3:n:3
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