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A Characterization of Piecemeal Second Best Policy


  • Robin Boadway
  • Richard Harris


This paper derives conditions under which prices may be set proportional to margin cost in some sectors of the economy when fixed distortions exist in other sectors. Two simple neo-classical economies are considered -- one with fixed producer prices and one with variable producer prices. In the former case, necessary and sufficient conditions are derived for piecemeal policy in terms of properties of derivatives of the demand functions. These conditions are interpreted in terms of separability properties of utility functions. In the latter case, sufficient conditions are derived which involve both demand and supply derivatives. We use a dual formulation to the problem, where conditions in terms of demand and supply derivatives are observable, and explicitly take into consideration the budgetary constraint of the government. In general, complete laissez-faire is not optimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway & Richard Harris, 1975. "A Characterization of Piecemeal Second Best Policy," Working Papers 195, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:195

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Connor, Gregory, 1984. "A unified beta pricing theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 13-31, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arnott, Richard, 2007. "Congestion tolling with agglomeration externalities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 187-203, September.
    2. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
    3. Arnott, Richard & Shevyakhova, Elizaveta, 2014. "Tenancy rent control and credible commitment in maintenance," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 72-85.
    4. Auerbach, Alan J., 1982. "Tax neutrality and the social discount rate : A suggested framework," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 355-372, April.
    5. Krishna, Pravin & Panagariya, Arvind, 2000. "A unification of second best results in international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 235-257, December.
    6. Pavel Ciaian, 2007. "Land Reform and Productivity Gains with Multiple Market Imperfections," EERI Research Paper Series EERI_RP_2007_01, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
    7. Boadway, Robin, 1999. "Le rôle de la théorie de l’optimum du second rang en économie publique," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 75(1), pages 29-65, mars-juin.
    8. Lawrence H. Goulder & Roberton C. Williams III, 1999. "The Usual Excess-Burden Approximation Usually Doesn't Come Close," NBER Working Papers 7034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Guy Gilbert, 1982. "Economie de la réforme fiscale et systèmes fiscaux comparés : une revue de littérature," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 33(4), pages 750-768.
    10. Arnott, Richard & Rowse, John, 2009. "Downtown parking in auto city," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-14, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L68 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Appliances; Furniture; Other Consumer Durables


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