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Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation

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  • Stiglitz, Joseph E.

Abstract

This paper establishes that, far from being able to derive the principle of horizontal equity from utilitarianism, the principle is actually in- consistent with utilitarianism in a variety of circumstances. We derive conditions under which (a) it is optimal to impose random tax schedules (ex post randomization) ; and (b) it is optimal to randomize the tax schedules imposed on a set of otherwise identical individuals (ex ante randomization). The implications for optimal tax theory are discussed. More generally, it is shown that there are a number of potentially important economic situations with which the principle of horizontal equity may be inconsistent not only with utilitarianism but even with Pareto optimality.
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  • Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Utilitarianism and horizontal equity : The case for random taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-33, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:18:y:1982:i:1:p:1-33
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    1. Weiss, Laurence, 1976. "The Desirability of Cheating Incentives and Randomness in the Optimal Income Tax," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1343-1352, December.
    2. Harvey S. Rosen, 1978. "An Approach to the Study of Income, Utility, and Horizontal Equity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(2), pages 307-322.
    3. Salop, Steven C, 1979. "Strategic Entry Deterrence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 335-338, May.
    4. 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.
    5. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: Tax Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 261-278, June.
    6. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1971. "Increasing risk II: Its economic consequences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 66-84, March.
    7. J. E. Stiglitz & P. Dasgupta, 1971. "Differential Taxation, Public Goods, and Economic Efficiency," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 151-174.
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