The Complexity of Economic Policy: I. Restricted Local Optima in Tax Policy Design
Economists traditionally tackle normative problems by computing optimal policy, ie the one that maximizes a social welfare function. In practice, however, a succession of marginal changes to a limited number of policy instruments are implemented, until no further improvement is feasible. I call such an outcome a ‘restricted local optimum’. I consider the outcome of such a tatonment process for a government that wants to optimally set taxes given a tax code with a fixed number of brackets. I show that there is history dependence, in that several local optima may be reached, and which one is reached depends on initial conditions. History dependence is stronger (ie there are more local optima), the more complex the design of economic policy, ie the greater the number of tax brackets. It is also typically stronger, the greater the interaction of policy instruments with one another – which in my model is equivalent to agents having a more elastic labour supply behaviour. Finally, for a given economy and a given tax code, I define the latter’s average performance as the average value of the social welfare function across all the local optima. One finds that it eventually sharply falls with the number of brackets, so that the best performing tax code typically involves no more than three brackets.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2002|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820
|Order Information:|| Email: |
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3339. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask to update the entry or send us the correct address
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.