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Why Praise Inequality? Public Good Provision, Income Distribution and Social Welfare

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  • Dasgupta, Indraneel

    () (Indian Statistical Institute)

Abstract

We consider a two-person Cournot game of voluntary contributions to a public good with identical individual preferences, and examine equilibrium aggregate welfare under a separable, symmetric and concave social welfare function. Assuming the public good is pure, Itaya, de Meza and Myles (Econ. Letters, 57: 289-296; 1997) have shown that maximization of social welfare precludes income equality in this setting. We show that their case breaks down when the public good is impure: there exist individual preferences under which maximization of social welfare necessitates exact income equalization. Even if the public good is pure, any given, positive level of income inequality can be shown to be socially excessive by suitably specifying individual preferences. Thus, sans knowledge of individual preferences, one cannot reject the claim that a marginal redistribution from the rich to the poor will improve social welfare, regardless of how small inequality is in the status quo.

Suggested Citation

  • Dasgupta, Indraneel, 2009. "Why Praise Inequality? Public Good Provision, Income Distribution and Social Welfare," IZA Discussion Papers 3988, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3988
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dasgupta, Indraneel & Kanbur, Ravi, 2003. "Bridging Communal Divides: Separation, Patronage, Integration," Working Papers 127235, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    2. Cornes,Richard & Sandler,Todd, 1996. "The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Club Goods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521477185, March.
    3. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
    4. Richard Cornes & Todd Sandler, 2000. "Pareto-Improving Redistribution and Pure Public Goods," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(2), pages 169-186, May.
    5. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    6. Dasgupta, Indraneel & Kanbur, Ravi, 2007. "Community and class antagonism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(9), pages 1816-1842, September.
    7. Itaya, Jun-ichi & de Meza, David & Myles, Gareth D., 1997. "In praise of inequality: public good provision and income distribution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 289-296, December.
    8. Cornes, Richard & Sandler, Todd, 1994. "The comparative static properties of the impure public good model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 403-421, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Itaya, Jun-ichi & Mizushima, Atsue, 2016. "Should income inequality be praised? Multiple public goods provision, income distribution, and social welfare," Discussion paper series. A 298, Graduate School of Economics and Business Administration, Hokkaido University.
    2. Indraneel Dasgupta & Ravi Kanbur, 2011. "Does philanthropy reduce inequality?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(1), pages 1-21, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods; voluntary provision; income distribution; inequality; social welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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