Financing of Public Goods Through Taxation in a General Equilibrium Economy: Experimental Evidence
40 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 17, 2013
We compare laboratory general equilibrium economies in which maintenance of a depreciating public facility is financed either by anonymous voluntary contributions or taxes. Agents individually allocate their private goods between consumption and investment in production. The experimental economies sustain public goods at 80-90 percent of the infinite horizon but 25-30 percent above the finite horizon optimum. Payoff efficiency is around 90 percent. This contrasts with rapid decline of public goods under voluntary contributions. When subjects have the choice between a system with voluntary contributions or taxation, 23 out of 24 voting decisions favor taxation. Taxation appears to be superior on grounds of both long run efficiency and fairness. Economy is too complex for subjects to solve for optimally, but simple institutional constraints yield aggregate efficiency.
Keywords: Public goods, Experiment, Voting, Taxation, Evolution of institutions
JEL Classification: C72, C91, C92, G10
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