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The Welfare Enhancing Effects of a Selfish Government in the Presence of Uninsuarable, Idiosyncratic Risk


  • R. Anton Braun

    (Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo)

  • Harald Uhlig

    (Institute for Economic Policy, Humboldt University)


This paper poses the following question: Is it possible to improve welfare by increasing taxes and throwing away the revenues? This paper demonstrates that the answer to this question is "yes." We show that there may be welfare gains from taxing capital income even when the additional capital income tax revenues are wasted or consumed by a selfish government. Previous literature has assumed that government expenditures are exogenous or productive, or allowed for redistribution of tax revenue either via lump-sum transfers, unemployment compensation or other redistributive schemes. In our model a selfish government taxes capital above a given threshold and then consumes the proceeds. This raises the before-tax real return on capital and and thereby enhances the ability of agents to self-insure when they are long-term unemployed and have low savings. Since all agents have positive probability of finding themselves in that state there are cases where all agents prefer a selfish government to no government at all.

Suggested Citation

  • R. Anton Braun & Harald Uhlig, 2006. "The Welfare Enhancing Effects of a Selfish Government in the Presence of Uninsuarable, Idiosyncratic Risk," CARF F-Series CARF-F-074, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.
  • Handle: RePEc:cfi:fseres:cf074

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark Huggett, 1995. "The one-sector growth model with idiosyncratic shocks," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 105, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    2. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1995. "Optimal Capital Income Taxation with Incomplete Markets, Borrowing Constraints, and Constant Discounting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1158-1175, December.
    3. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2007. "Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Insurance Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 487-534.
    4. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
    5. Judd, Kenneth L., 1985. "Redistributive taxation in a simple perfect foresight model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 59-83, October.
    6. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B., 1994. "Public investment in infrastructure in a simple growth model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 1173-1187, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mathias Trabandt & Harald Uhlig, 2006. "How Far Are We From The Slippery Slope? The Laffer Curve Revisited," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2006-023, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
    2. Nutahara, Kengo, 2015. "Laffer curves in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 56-72.
    3. Trabandt, Mathias & Uhlig, Harald, 2011. "The Laffer curve revisited," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 305-327.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy


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