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Taxes, Public Goods and the Ruling Class

  • Political Science


Alternative theories of government behaviour yield conflicting prescriptions for public finance ranging from Samuelson's (1954) rule for the provision of public goods to Brennan and Buchanan's (1977) "Tax Constitution for Leviathan." This paper presents a general model which subsumes these rules as polar cases. The ruling class is modelled as maximizing its own welfare exclusively in the choice of public goods, nonnegative lump sum payments and excise tax rates. At one pole, where everybody is a member of the ruling class, the rules use a comprehensive and efficient excise tax base. At the other pole, when there is only one rule, the subject's interests are best defended by a restricted and inefficient tax base which enables subjects to substitute away from goods that are heavily taxed.

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