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Why do we Redistribute so Much but Tag so Little? Normative Diversity, Equal Sacri…fice and Optimal Taxation


Matthew Weinzierl


Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit

August 23, 2012

Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 12-064

Abstract:     
The workhorse model of optimal taxation strongly recommends tagging, but its use in policy is limited. I argue that this puzzle is a symptom of a more fundamental problem. Conventional theory neglects the diverse normative criteria with which, as extensive evidence has shown, most people evaluate policy. In particular, if the classic principle of Equal Sacrifice augments the standard Utilitarian criterion, optimal tagging is limited. Calibrated simulations of optimal policy with normative diversity of this type simultaneously match three features of U.S. policy: substantial income redistribution; rejection of gender, race, and height tags; and acceptance of a blindness tag. Additional implications increase the appeal of this revision to conventional theory.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

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Date posted: January 24, 2012 ; Last revised: August 25, 2012

Suggested Citation

Weinzierl, Matthew, Why do we Redistribute so Much but Tag so Little? Normative Diversity, Equal Sacri…fice and Optimal Taxation (August 23, 2012). Harvard Business School BGIE Unit Working Paper No. 12-064. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1991141 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1991141

Contact Information

Matthew Weinzierl (Contact Author)
Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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