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Bevolent Planners, Malevolent Dictators and Democratic Voters

We study the size of government and of GDP, under autocratic and democratic rule, respectively. It turns out that first, both democratic and authoritarian rulers apply the Samuelson (1954) criterion when deciding on productive public goods. Second, the labor supply elasticity and the skewness of the ability distribution determine whether democracy or autocracy will lead to the highest output. Third, when the ability distribution is sufficiently skewed, the democratic majority will behave like a rational autocrat, who chooses the tax rate that maximizes tax revenue. Fourth, population ageing in Western societies may lead to the policy preferred by a rational autocrat.

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Paper provided by Stockholm University, Department of Economics in its series Research Papers in Economics with number 2006:6.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 16 Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sunrpe:2006_0006
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Department of Economics, Stockholm, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

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Web page: http://www.ne.su.se/
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  1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini , Guido, 1997. "Political Economics and Macroeconomic Policy," Seminar Papers 630, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Democratic capital: The nexus of political and economic change," Working Papers 308, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  3. Barro, Robert J, 1996. "Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
  4. Francesco Giavazzi & Guido Tabellini, 2004. "Economic and Political Liberalizations," NBER Working Papers 10657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogenous Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S103-26, October.
  6. 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.
  7. Sandmo, Agnar, 1998. "Redistribution and the marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 365-382, December.
  8. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
  9. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 1980. "The Power to Tax," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521233293, June.
  10. Rigobon, Roberto & Rodrik, Dani, 2004. "Rule of Law, Democracy, Openness and Income: Estimating the Interrelationships," CEPR Discussion Papers 4653, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Vidar Christiansen, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 447-457.
  14. Dixit, Avinash K & Sandmo, Angar, 1977. " Some Simplified Formulae for Optimal Income Taxation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 79(4), pages 417-23.
  15. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
  16. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  17. A. B. Atkinson & N. H. Stern, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 119-128.
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