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Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government

  • Gary S. Becker
  • Casey B. Mulligan

We provide a model for analyzing effects of the tax system and spending programs on the determination of government spending and taxpayer welfare and show that tax system or spending program which is suboptimal from a Ramsey point of view can improve taxpayer welfare because the system creates additional political pressure for suppressing the growth of government. Relevant examples include the use of inflation taxes capital taxes, excise taxes, deficit financing, and income taxes with many We also demonstrate the similarity of the political responses to revenue shocks, spending shocks, changes in program efficiency. In a broad sample of countries for the years 1973 - 90, we show that broad-based taxes with fairly flat rate structures -- are associated with larger governments. An analysis of defense spending -- especially wartime spending -- oil shocks, intergovernmental grants, and other flypaper effects suggests that the cause and effect is not from spending to tax structures.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6789.

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Date of creation: Nov 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 2003. "Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government," Journal of Law & Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 293-340, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6789
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