Raising vs. Leveling in the Social Organization of Welfare
Richard E. Wagner
George Mason University - Department of Economics
Review of Law and Economics, Forthcoming
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 10-14
This paper contrasts raising and leveling as alternative conceptual frameworks regarding the social organization of welfare. At least since Richard Musgrave’s (1959) tripartite organization of the theory of public finance, most fiscal scholars have treated the redistributive activities of governments as necessarily belonging to the national level of government. More significantly perhaps, that literature has treated the problem of promoting welfare as one of leveling incomes through programs of taxing-and-transferring. In contrast, this paper treats the problem of promoting welfare as one of raising incomes. This alternative formulation leads, in turn, to an alternative orientation toward the relationship between federalism and welfare. In particular, there is good reason to think that genuinely competitive federalism offers a sounder institutional framework for promoting raising than can redistribution through a central government, mostly because the knowledge that is required for a program of raising is distributed and incapable of meaningful summarization through aggregation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: redistribution vs. flourishing, federalism vs. decentralization, hierarchy vs. polycentricity, wants vs. activities, social division of knowledge, comparative institutional analysis
JEL Classification: D31, D63, H11, H77, I30Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 13, 2010
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