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Creating Public Value with Tax and Spending Policies: The View from Public Economics

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Abstract

According to the framework rooted in public economics, governments can create public value by focusing tax and spending policies on remedying market failures and addressing concerns about fairness embodied in a social welfare function. By pursuing optimal tax and spending policies, governments navigate the omnipresent trade-offs between equity and efficiency. Of course, in practice, the process by which policies are adopted does not resemble the planner's problem in social choice theory. In addition, real fiscal policies do not look much like the recommendations that arise from the optimal tax literature. Governments operate in public choice environments that are not conducive to focused remedying of market failure, and they suffer from their own tendencies to fail to achieve their objectives. Nevertheless, many of the tools are in place to help the federal and state governments focus tax and spending in ways that can maximize public value.

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