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Social Insurance, Incentives, and Risk Taking

  • Hans-Werner Sinn

From the perspective of parents, redistributive taxation can be seen as social insurance for their children, for which no private alternative exists. Because private insurance comes too late during a person's life, it cannot cover the same risks as social insurance. Empirically, 85% of social insurance covers risks for which no private insurance would have been available. Redistributive taxation can be efficiency enhancing, because it creates safety and because it stimulates income generating risk taking. However, it also brings about detrimental moral hazard effects. Both the enhancement of risk taking and the moral hazard effects tend to increase the inequality in the economy, and, under constant returns to risk taking, this increase is likely to be strong enough even to make the net-of-tax income distribution more unequal. Optimal redistributive taxation will either imply that the pie becomes bigger when there is less inequality in pre-tax incomes or that more redistribution creates more post-tax inequality. The welfare state will encounter severe risks when free migration of people, goods, and factors of production becomes possible. Basing redistributive taxation on a nationality principle may help overcome some of these risks.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5335.

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Date of creation: Nov 1995
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Publication status: published as International Tax and Public Finance 3, (1996), pp. 259-280.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5335
Note: PE
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  1. Gordon, Roger H, 1985. "Taxation of Corporate Capital Income: Tax Revenues versus Tax Distortions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-27, February.
  2. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1995. " A Theory of the Welfare State," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 495-526, December.
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  10. Boadway, Robin W & Wildasin, David E, 1990. "Optimal Tax-Subsidy Policies for Industrial Adjustment to Uncertain Shocks," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(1), pages 105-34, January.
  11. Kai A. Konrad, 1991. "Risk Taking and Taxation in Complete Capital Markets," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 16(2), pages 167-177, December.
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  13. Mirrlees, J. A., 1995. "Private risk and public action: The economics of the welfare state," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 383-397, April.
  14. Louis Kaplow, 1991. "A Note on Taxation as Social Insurance for Uncertain Labor Income," NBER Working Papers 3708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Varian, Hal R., 1980. "Redistributive taxation as social insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 49-68, August.
  18. Kaplow, Louis, 1992. "Income Tax Deductions for Losses as Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 1013-17, September.
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