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Positive and normative judgments implicit in U.S. tax policy, and the costs of unequal growth and recessions

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  • Lockwood, Benjamin B.
  • Weinzierl, Matthew

Abstract

Calculating the welfare implications of changes to economic policy or shocks requires economists to decide on a normative criterion. One approach is to elicit the relevant moral criteria from real-world policy choices, converting a normative decision into a positive inference, as in the recent surge of “inverse-optimum” research. We find that capitalizing on the potential of this approach is not as straightforward as we might hope. We perform the inverse-optimum inference on U.S. tax policy from 1979 through 2010 and argue that the results either undermine the normative relevance of the approach or challenge conventional assumptions upon which economists routinely rely when performing welfare evaluations.

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  • Lockwood, Benjamin B. & Weinzierl, Matthew, 2016. "Positive and normative judgments implicit in U.S. tax policy, and the costs of unequal growth and recessions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 30-47.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:77:y:2016:i:c:p:30-47
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmoneco.2015.10.006
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    3. Chen, Shu-Hua, 2020. "Inequality-growth nexus under progressive income taxation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    4. Alberto Alesina & Armando Miano & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2018. "Immigration and Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 24733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Colas, Mark & Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2018. "Optimal Need-Based Financial Aid," CEPR Discussion Papers 13196, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Thomas van der Pol & Frits Bos & Gerbert Romijn, 2017. "Distributionally Weighted Cost-Benefit Analysis: From Theory to Practice," CPB Discussion Paper 364.rdf, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    7. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2020. "How Should Capital Be Taxed?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 812-846, September.
    8. Fabian Feger & Doina Radulescu & Doina Maria Radulescu, 2018. "Redistribution through Income Taxation and Public Utility Pricing in the Presence of Energy Efficiency Considerations," CESifo Working Paper Series 7195, CESifo.
    9. Thomas van der Pol & Frits Bos & Gerbert Romijn, 2017. "Distributionally Weighted Cost-Benefit Analysis: From Theory to Practice," CPB Discussion Paper 364, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    10. Jacobs, Bas & Jongen, Egbert L.W. & Zoutman, Floris T., 2017. "Revealed social preferences of Dutch political parties," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 81-100.
    11. Jimmy Charité & Raymond Fisman & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2015. "Reference Points and Redistributive Preferences: Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 21009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Bo Hyun Chang & Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2018. "Pareto Weights in Practice: A Quantitative Analysis of 32 OECD Countries," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 28, pages 181-204, April.
    13. Pavel Brendler, 2020. "Why hasn't Social Security changed since 1977?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 36, pages 134-157, April.
    14. Johannes Hermle & Andreas Peichl, 2018. "Jointly Optimal Taxes for Different Types of Income," CESifo Working Paper Series 7248, CESifo.
    15. Bo Hyun Chang & Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2016. "Pareto Weights in Practice: A Quantitative Analysis Across 32 OECD Countries," Working papers 2016rwp-92, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income taxation; Optimal taxation; Inverse optimum;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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