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Journal of Economic Literature: Vol. 48 No. 4 (December 2010)

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Efficiency and Redistribution: An Evaluative Review of Louis Kaplow's The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics

Article Citation

Boadway, Robin. 2010. "Efficiency and Redistribution: An Evaluative Review of Louis Kaplow's The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics." Journal of Economic Literature, 48(4): 964-79.

DOI: 10.1257/jel.48.4.964

Abstract

Louis Kaplow proposes a two-step methodology for normative policy analysis and illustrates it using various policy reforms. The first step is to identify efficiency gains when hypothetical lump-sum taxes can undo redistributive consequences. The second step evaluates the redistributive effects using a strictly welfaristic social welfare function. I critically review the foundations for Kaplow's procedure and its reliance on strict welfarism. I argue that basing efficiency gains on hypothetical lump-sum tax adjustment can lead to social welfare reducing policies if such tax adjustments are not carried out. I also indicate some conceptual problems with translating welfarism into policy evaluation when individuals have different utility function, and review one promising alternative approach.(JEL H20, H41, H50)

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Boadway, Robin (Queen's U, Kingston)

JEL Classifications

H20: Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue: General
H41: Public Goods
H50: National Government Expenditures and Related Policies: General


Journal of Economic Literature


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