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Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class Revisited: Implications for Optimal Income Taxation

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  • Aronsson, Thomas

    () (Department of Economics, Umeå University)

  • Johansson-Stenman, Olof

    () (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)

Abstract

Almost all previous studies on public policy under relative consumption concerns have ignored the role of leisure for status comparisons. Inspired by Veblen (1899), this paper considers a two-type optimal income tax model, where people care about their relative consumption, and where the importance of relative consumption increases with the use of leisure due to increased consumption visibility. We show that increased consumption positionality typically implies higher marginal income tax rates for both ability-types. Using a leisure-weighted measure of reference consumption, rather than a measure where leisure plays no role as in the previous literature, increases the marginal income tax rate implemented for the low-ability type and decreases the marginal income tax rate implemented for the high-ability type, i.e., it gives rise to a regressive tax component.

Suggested Citation

  • Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2010. "Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class Revisited: Implications for Optimal Income Taxation," Working Papers in Economics 466, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0466
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/23211
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    Cited by:

    1. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "State-variable public goods and social comparisons," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 390-410.
    2. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2015. "Keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths and the Tanakas: On international tax coordination and social comparisons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 71-86.
    3. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2015. "Keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths and the Tanakas: On International Tax Coordination and Social Comparisons," Working Papers in Economics 621, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    optimal taxation; redistribution; public goods; relative consumption; status; positional goods;

    JEL classification:

    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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