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Optimal Libertarian Sin Taxes

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Abstract

This paper studies the optimal fiscal treatment of addictive goods (cigarettes, drugs, fatty foods, alcohol, gambling etc.). It shows that, when agents have private information about their productivity levels and their degree of rationality, the Atkinson and Stiglitz result of optimal uniform commodity taxation does not hold: addictive and non-addictive goods should be taxed at different rates. Depending on the direction of redistribution, the addictive good should be taxed more or less than the non-addictive good. Differential commodity taxation is not driven by the planner’s paternalism, but only by incentive considerations. A tax authority which fully respects consumers’ sovereignty taxes the consumption of addictive and non-addictive goods at different rates to improve screening of types and increase income redistribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Matteo Bassi, 2012. "Optimal Libertarian Sin Taxes," CSEF Working Papers 317, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:317
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    File URL: http://www.csef.it/WP/wp317.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2008. "Taxation and Heterogeneous Preferences," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 64(2), pages 218-244, June.
    2. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    3. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz, 1995. "Uncertainty and optimal taxation: In defense of commodity taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 291-310, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Bounded Rationality; Optimal Taxation; Minimal Paternalism; Multidimensional Screening;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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