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Optimal Provision of Public Goods: A Synthesis

  • Claus Thustrup Kreiner
  • Nicolaj Verdelin

There currently exist two competing approaches in the literature on the optimal provision of public goods. The standard approach highlights the importance of distortionary taxation and distributional concerns. The new approach neutralizes distributional concerns by adjusting the non-linear income tax, and finds that this reinvigorates the simple Samuelson rule when preferences are separable in goods and leisure. We provide a synthesis by demonstrating that both approaches derive from the same basic formula. We further develop the new approach by deriving a general, intuitive formula for the optimal level of a public good without imposing strong assumptions on preferences. This formula shows that distortionary taxation may have a role to play as in the standard approach. However, the main determinants of optimal provision are completely different and the traditional formula with its emphasis on MCF only obtains in a very special case.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2009/wp-cesifo-2009-02/cesifo1_wp2538.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2538.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2538
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  1. Slemrod, Joel & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2001. "Integrating Expenditure and Tax Decisions: The Marginal Cost of Funds and the Marginal Benefit of Projects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 2), pages 189-202, June.
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  4. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Desirability of Commodity Taxation under Non-Linear Income Taxation and Heterogeneous Tastes," NBER Working Papers 8029, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1988. "Cash versus Kind, Self-selection, and Efficient Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 691-700, September.
  9. 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 463-78, August.
  10. S�ren Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen & Luca Micheletto, 2010. "Public Provision of Private Goods and Nondistortionary Marginal Tax Rates," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 1-27, May.
  11. Christiansen, Vidar, 2007. "Two Approaches to Determine Public Good Provision under Distortionary Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(1), pages 25-43, March.
  12. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1997. "On the Superiority of Corrective Taxes to Quantity Regulation," NBER Working Papers 6251, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Kleven, Henrik & Kreiner, Claus Thustrup, 2006. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds: Hours of Work versus Labor Force Participation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5594, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Gordon, Roger & Li, Wei, 2009. "Tax structures in developing countries: Many puzzles and a possible explanation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 855-866, August.
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  17. Jon Gruber & Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "The Elasticity of Taxable Income: Evidence and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Louis Kaplow, 2004. "On the (Ir)Relevance of Distribution and Labor Supply Distortion to Government Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 159-175, Fall.
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  22. Dahlby, Bev, 1998. "Progressive taxation and the social marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 105-122, January.
  23. Emmanuel Saez, 2000. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 7628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Gahvari, Firouz, 2006. "On the marginal cost of public funds and the optimal provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1251-1262, August.
  25. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-84.
  26. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stern, N H, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 119-28, January.
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