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Are the Rich Too Rich to be Expropriated?: Economic Power and the Feasibility of Constitutional Limits to Redistribution

  • Breyer, Friedrich
  • Ursprung, Heinrich W

Why is it that, in democracies, the poor do not expropriate the rich even though they outnumber them? In this paper the authors analyze the commonly held belief that the rich escape expropriation because they are economically powerful. They demonstrate that the economically powerful, i.e., the above-average income earners, are indeed in a position to bribe the small segment of the voters with incomes between the median and the mean to resist the temptation of supporting confiscatory taxation. This is true even if compensation payments in cash are politically unfeasible and therefore need to be made in terms of an evenly distributed private good; and it may even be true if only pure public goods are available to swing the middle class. Copyright 1998 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 94 (1998)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (January)
Pages: 135-56

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:94:y:1998:i:1-2:p:135-56
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  1. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1989. "Public Provision Of Private Goods And The Redistribution Of Income," Papers 36, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  2. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Ireland, Norman J., 1990. "The mix of social and private provision of goods and services," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 201-219, November.
  4. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  5. Roemer, J.E., 1995. "Why the Poor Do not Expropriate the Rich in Democracies: A New Argument," Papers 95-04, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  6. Eichberger, Jurgen & Pethig, Rudiger, 1994. "Constitutional choice of rules," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 311-337, July.
  7. Epple, Dennis & Romer, Thomas, 1991. "Mobility and Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 828-58, August.
  8. Bowles, Roger & Jones, Philip, 1991. "Political participation and the limits to redistribution," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 127-139, July.
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