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Why do we Redistribute so Much but Tag so Little? The principle of equal sacrifice and optimal taxation

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  • Matthew C. Weinzierl

Abstract

The workhorse model of optimal taxation strongly recommends tagging, but its use in policy is limited. I argue that this puzzle is a symptom of a more fundamental problem. Conventional theory neglects the diverse normative criteria with which, as extensive evidence has shown, most people evaluate policy. In particular, if the classic principle of Equal Sacri...ce augments the standard Utilitarian criterion, optimal tagging is limited. Calibrated simulations of optimal policy with normative diversity of this type simultaneously match three features of U.S. policy: substantial income redistribution; rejection of gender, race, and height tags; and acceptance of a blindness tag. Additional implications increase the appeal of this revision to conventional theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew C. Weinzierl, 2012. "Why do we Redistribute so Much but Tag so Little? The principle of equal sacrifice and optimal taxation," NBER Working Papers 18045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18045
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fleurbaey,Marc & Maniquet,François, 2011. "A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521715348.
    2. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
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    6. Alexander W. Cappelen & Astri Drange Hole & Erik Ø Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2007. "The Pluralism of Fairness Ideals: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 818-827, June.
    7. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2012. "De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Heterogeneity in Preferences and Optimal Redistribution," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-063, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2014.
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    Cited by:

    1. PESTIEAU, Pierre & RACIONERO, Maria, 2015. "Tagging with Leisure Needs," CORE Discussion Papers RP 2747, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    2. Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2016. "Generalized Social Marginal Welfare Weights for Optimal Tax Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(1), pages 24-45, January.
    3. Weinzierl, Matthew, 2014. "The promise of positive optimal taxation: normative diversity and a role for equal sacrifice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 128-142.
    4. Pierre Pestieau & Maria Racionero, 2015. "Tagging with leisure needs," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 45(4), pages 687-706, December.
    5. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2012. "Optimal Labor Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 18521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. David (David Patrick) Madden & Michael Savage, 2015. "Which Households Matter Most? Capturing Equity Considerations in Tax Reform via Generalised Social Marginal Welfare Weights," Working Papers 201502, School of Economics, University College Dublin.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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