Financing of Public Goods Through Taxation in a General Equilibrium Economy: Theory and Experimental Evidence

36 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2011

See all articles by Juergen Huber

Juergen Huber

University of Innsbruck; University of Vienna - Department of Finance

Martin Shubik

Yale University - School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Date Written: October 28, 2011

Abstract

We compare general equilibrium economies in which building and maintenance of a depreciating public facility is financed either by anonymous voluntary contributions or by taxing agents on their income from private production. Agents start with an endowment of private goods and money, while the government starts with an endowment of public good and money. All private goods produced are tendered for sale in exchange for money in a sell-all market mechanism. Agents' proceeds from sale are taxed, and they individually allocate their private goods between current consumption and investment in production for the following period. The optimal levels of supply of the public good, and tax rate to sustain it over time, are defined and calculated for infinite and finite horizons. These equilibrium theoretical predications are compared to the outcomes of laboratory economies when (1) the starting public facility is either at or below the optimal level; and (2) the tax rate is either exogenously set at the optimal level, or at the median of rates proposed by individual agents. We find that the experimental economies sustain public goods at about 70-90 percent of the infinite horizon but considerably more than the finite horizon optimum. Payoffs (efficiency) is at 90 percent of the infinite horizon equilibrium level even when the rate of taxation is determined by voting. Starting conditions play only a minor role for outcomes of the economies, as efficiency and the stock of public good adjusts to about the same level irrespective of the starting level. These results contrast with rapid decline in provision of public goods under anonymous voluntary contributions, and point to the possibility that the social institution of government enforced taxation may have evolved to address the problem of under-production of public goods through anonymous voluntary contributions.

Keywords: Public goods, Experimental gaming, Voting, taxation, Evolution of institutions

JEL Classification: C72, C91, C92

Suggested Citation

Huber, Juergen and Shubik, Martin and Sunder, Shyam, Financing of Public Goods Through Taxation in a General Equilibrium Economy: Theory and Experimental Evidence (October 28, 2011). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1830. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1950643 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1950643

Juergen Huber

University of Innsbruck ( email )

Universit├Ątsstra├če 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
Austria

University of Vienna - Department of Finance ( email )

Bruenner Strasse 72
Vienna, 1210
Austria

Martin Shubik (Contact Author)

Yale University - School of Management ( email )

Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

Yale University - Cowles Foundation ( email )

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States
203-432-3694 (Phone)
203-432-6167 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/au/d_shubik.htm

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management ( email )

165 Whitney Avenue
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203-432-6160 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.som.yale.edu/faculty/sunder/

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

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