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Spreading the Wealth Around: Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber

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  • N Gregory Mankiw

    () (Department of Economics, 223 Littauer Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.)

Abstract

This essay discusses the policy debate concerning optimal taxation and the distribution of income. It begins with a brief overview of trends in income inequality, the leading hypothesis to explain these trends, and the distribution of the tax burden. It then considers the normative question of how the tax system should be designed. The conventional utilitarian framework is found to be wanting, as it leads to prescriptions that conflict with many individuals’ moral intuitions. The essay then explores an alternative normative framework, dubbed the Just Deserts Theory, according to which an individual's compensation should reflect his or her social contribution.

Suggested Citation

  • N Gregory Mankiw, 2010. "Spreading the Wealth Around: Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 285-298.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:easeco:v:36:y:2010:i:3:p:285-298
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-41.
    2. Lester C. Thurow, 1971. "The Income Distribution as a Pure Public Good," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 327-336.
    3. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew Weinzierl, 2010. "The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 155-176, February.
    4. N Gregory Mankiw, 2009. "Smart Taxes: An Open Invitation to Join the Pigou Club," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 14-23.
    5. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2008. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 499-532, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cornelissen, Thomas & Himmler, Oliver & Koenig, Tobias, 2013. "Fairness spillovers—The case of taxation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 164-180.
    2. Galeotti, Fabio & Kline, Reuben & Orsini, Raimondello, 2017. "When foul play seems fair: Exploring the link between just deserts and honesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 451-467.
    3. Bjorn Bartling & Alexander Cappelen & Mathias Ekström & Erik Ø. Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2018. "Fairness in Winner-Take-All Markets," Working Papers 2018-031, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    4. François Maniquet, 2017. "De chacun selon ses capacités à chacun selon ses besoins, ou (même) plus, s’il le souhaite," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 68(1), pages 119-129.
    5. Marika Karanassou & Hector Sala, 2012. "Inequality and Employment Sensitivities to the Falling Labour Share," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 43(3), pages 343-376.
    6. repec:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:2:p:580-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Harju Jarkko, 2014. "Policy evaluation methods in tax research – new evidence and interpretations," Nordic Tax Journal, Sciendo, vol. 2014(1), pages 76-92, May.
    8. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Positive and Normative Judgments Implicit in U.S. Tax Policy, and the Costs of Unequal Growth and Recessions," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-119, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2014.
    9. repec:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/693393 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Robert Lepenies, 2014. "Economists as political philosophers : a critique of normative trade theory," RSCAS Working Papers 2014/11, European University Institute.
    11. Peter Backus & Alejandro Esteller-Moré, 2014. "Is income redistribution a form of insurance, a public good or both?," Working Papers 2014/33, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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