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Sin Licenses Revisited

  • Markus Haavio
  • Kaisa Kotakorpi

We analyse attempts to implement personalised regulation in the form of sin licenses (O’Donoghue and Rabin 2003, 2005, 2007) to correct the distortion in the consumption of a harmful good when consumers suffer from varying degrees of self-control problems. We take into account the possibility that consumers may trade the sin good in a secondary market, and show that sin licenses induce only sophisticated individuals with low levels of self-control problems to consume optimally. The consumption of naïve individuals as well as sophisticated individuals with severe self-control problems remains too high, and welfare in equilibrium is decreasing in the level of self-control problems and non-increasing in the level of naivete. Further, we show that introducing a uniform tax on top of a system of sin licenses may improve welfare, whereas a uniform maximum quota would reduce welfare for sophisticates but may increase welfare for naives. Finally, we show that naives would benefit from a scheme where sin licenses are sold for a positive price in the primary market.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4010.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4010
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  1. Ted O' Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Choice and Procrastination," Microeconomics 0012002, EconWPA.
  2. Mirrlees, J. A., 1976. "Optimal tax theory : A synthesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 327-358, November.
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  6. CREMER, Helmuth & PESTIEAU , Pierre & ROCHET, Jean-Charles, . "Direct versus indirect taxation: the design of the tax structure revisited," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1528, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  7. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2005. "Optimal Sin Taxes," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000346, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. CREMER, Helmuth & DE DONDER, Philippe & MALDONADO, Dario & PESTIEAU, Pierre, . "Commodity taxation under habit formation and myopia," CORE Discussion Papers RP -2244, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  9. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  10. Cowell, Frank A., 2008. "Problems and Promise of Smart Cards in Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 61(4), pages 865-82, December.
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  13. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  14. Haavio, Markus & Kotakorpi, Kaisa, 2011. "The political economy of sin taxes," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 575-594, May.
  15. Robert Sugden, 2004. "The Opportunity Criterion: Consumer Sovereignty Without the Assumption of Coherent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1014-1033, September.
  16. Kanbur, Ravi & Pirttila, Jukka & Tuomala, Matti, 2004. "Non-Welfarist Optimal Taxation And Behavioral Public Economics," Working Papers 127150, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  17. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2004. "Contracting with Diversely Naive Agents," CEPR Discussion Papers 4573, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104, February.
  19. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2005. "Behavioral Public Economics: Welfare and Policy Analysis with Non-Standard Decision-Makers," Discussion Papers 04-033, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  20. Paul Heidhues & Botond Kőszegi, 2009. "Futile Attempts at Self-Control," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 423-434, 04-05.
  21. Gruber, Jonathan & Koszegi, Botond, 2004. "Tax incidence when individuals are time-inconsistent: the case of cigarette excise taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1959-1987, August.
  22. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Studying Optimal Paternalism, Illustrated by a Model of Sin Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 186-191, May.
  23. Jay Bhattacharya & Darius Lakdawalla, 2004. "Time-Inconsistency and Welfare," NBER Working Papers 10345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
  25. Daniel Gottlieb, 2008. "Competition over Time-Inconsistent Consumers," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(4), pages 673-684, 08.
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