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The Role of Prices for Excludable Public Goods

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  • Sören Blomquist

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  • Vidar Christiansen

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Abstract

When a public good is excludable it is possible to charge individuals for using the good. We study the role of prices for publicly provided excludable public goods within an extension of the Stern-Stiglitz version of the Mirrlees optimal income tax model. We show that for a public consumer good there is a range of circumstances in which charging a price for the public good decreases welfare. We find that a necessary condition for a positive price to be desirable is that the marginal valuation of the public good is increasing in leisure. However, even under this condition, welfare is initially decreasing in the price, implying that charging a lower than optimal price may be less efficient than setting a zero price. Thus, even when there is a case for charging a price for the public good, an attempt to implement the optimum in practice may be risky, as even setting a modest price to avoid overshooting the optimum may be Pareto inferior to charging no price at all. The policy case for a price may thus appear rather weak. We also find that producers using an intermediate excludable public good as an input should not be charged a price for using the good. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Suggested Citation

  • Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2005. "The Role of Prices for Excludable Public Goods," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 12(1), pages 61-79, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:12:y:2005:i:1:p:61-79
    DOI: 10.1007/s10797-005-6395-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Christiansen, Vidar, 1984. "Which commodity taxes should supplement the income tax?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 195-220, July.
    3. Oakland, William H, 1974. "Public Goods, Perfect Competition, and Underproduction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 927-939, Sept./Oct.
    4. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2005. "The Role of Prices for Excludable Public Goods," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 12(1), pages 61-79, January.
    5. Burns, Michael E & Walsh, Cliff, 1981. "Market Provision of Price-excludable Public Goods: A General Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(1), pages 166-191, February.
    6. Stern, Nicholas, 1982. "Optimum taxation with errors in administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 181-211, March.
    7. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1982. "Self-selection and Pareto efficient taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 213-240, March.
    8. Eskeland, Gunnar S., 2000. "Environmental protection and optimal taxation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2510, The World Bank.
    9. Brito, Dagobert L & Oakland, William H, 1980. "On the Monopolistic Provision of Excludable Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 691-704, September.
    10. 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.
    11. Fraser, Clive D., 1996. "On the provision of excludable public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 111-130, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gordon, Roger H. & Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2014. "The choice of the personal income tax base," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 97-110.
    2. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2005. "The Role of Prices for Excludable Public Goods," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 12(1), pages 61-79, January.
    3. Hellwig, Martin F., 2005. "A utilitarian approach to the provision and pricing of excludable public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(11-12), pages 1981-2003, December.
    4. Gilbert Metcalf & Jongsang Park, 2007. "A comment on the role of prices for excludable public goods," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 14(6), pages 685-698, December.
    5. Bernd Huber & Marco Runkel, 2009. "Tax competition, excludable public goods, and user charges," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(3), pages 321-336, June.
    6. Hellwig, Martin, 2004. "Optimal income taxation, public-goods provision and public-sector pricing : a contribution to the foundations of public economics," Papers 04-42, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    excludable public goods; public sector pricing; information constrained Pareto efficiency;

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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