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Majority Rule versus Supermajority Rules: Their Effects on Narrow and Broad Taxes


  • Jac C. Heckelman

    (Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA,

  • Keith L. Dougherty

    (University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA)


Buchanan and Tullock argue that larger supermajority rules reduce tyranny of the majority but should have no effect on the passage of mutually advantageous policies. The authors test this argument by separately analyzing the effect of supermajority requirements on taxes that are targeted toward narrow groups (more redistributive) and taxes targeted toward a broader base (less redistributive), in a panel of fifty states from 1970 to 2008. Regression analysis reveals an inverse relationship between narrow taxes and the size of the majority rule requirement and no relationship between broad taxes and the size of the majority requirement—consistent with the claim of Buchanan and Tullock. The authors also find that Democratic controlled governments have significantly higher tax rates on narrow taxes than Republican controlled governments. The reverse is found for broad taxes, but the result is not as strong.

Suggested Citation

  • Jac C. Heckelman & Keith L. Dougherty, 2010. "Majority Rule versus Supermajority Rules: Their Effects on Narrow and Broad Taxes," Public Finance Review, , vol. 38(6), pages 738-761, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:38:y:2010:i:6:p:738-761

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Keith Dougherty, 2012. "Buchanan and Tullock’s apple," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 403-406, September.
    2. Keith Dougherty & Julian Edward & Robi Ragan, 2015. "The value of formalism: re-examining external costs and decision costs with multiple groups," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(1), pages 31-52, April.
    3. Björn Kauder & Niklas Potrafke, 2016. "Supermajorities and Political Rent Extraction," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(1), pages 65-81, February.
    4. Keith L. Dougherty, 2015. "Supermajority rules," Chapters,in: Handbook of Social Choice and Voting, chapter 7, pages 102-116 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Keith Dougherty & Brian Pitts & Justin Moeller & Robi Ragan, 2014. "An experimental study of the efficiency of unanimity rule and majority rule," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 359-382, March.
    6. repec:kap:pubcho:v:175:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-018-0512-x is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Ellen C. Seljan, 2015. "Ready to Bargain: The Effect of Fiscal Stress on Supermajority Requirements to Raise Taxes," Public Budgeting & Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(3), pages 24-43, September.


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