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Economics is not what you think: A defense of the economic approach to taxation

Musée Metz - Stèle Impôts - Par Fab5669 (Travail personnel) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsMarc Fleurbaey, Economics is not what you think: A defense of the economic approach to taxation, FMSH-WP-2012-10, may 2012.

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About the author

Marc Fleurbaey is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor at the University of Princeton (USA). His research in economics and philosophy has been devoted to normative economics, distributive justice, and the evaluation of public policy. The main areas of application are the measurement of social welfare, climate policies, health prioritizing, and optimal taxation.

He has been professor of economics and CNRS researcher in France. He is the coordinating editor of Social Choice and Welfare and a former editor of Economics and Philosophy. He is a Coordinating Lead Author for the Fifth Assessment Report (2014) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He has been a member of the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. He has published Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare (Oxford 2008) and A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare (Cambridge 2011, with F. Maniquet), as well as many articles in welfare economics, public economics, and political philosophy.

The text

This text was written by Marc Fleurbay, Princeton University, who holds the Chaire entitled « Welfare Economics and Social Justice » at the Collège d’études mondiales.

More information : www.college-etudesmondiales.org/en/content/welfare-economics-and-social-justice

Abstract

In The Myth of Ownership – Taxes and Justice, Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel (2002) launch an attack against a straw man, the economist who believes that taxation should minimally interfere with property rights and should seek to preserve the market distribution of wealth and income. Instead they propose an approach that focuses on the consequences of any form of public intervention for the distribution of welfare, without any particular ethical concern for the values emerging from the market. In fact, such an approach has been long developed by Mirrlees (1971), whose approach has been dominating the economics of taxation for the last forty years. But more recently the fairness approach to taxation goes beyond welfare consequentialism and attributes some value to market allocations, in line with the theories of justice proposed by Rawls and Dworkin.

Keywords

taxation, welfare, property rights, fairness, Mirrlees

Résumé

Dans The Myth of Ownership – Taxes and Justice, Liam Murphy et Thomas Nagel (2002) critique une supposée approche économique postulant que la fiscalité devrait porter atteinte de façon minimale aux droits de propriété et devrait chercher à préserver la répartition de la richesse et du revenu engendrée par le marché. Au lieu de cela, ils proposent une approche qui met l’accent sur les conséquences de toute forme d’intervention publique pour la distribution du bien-être, sans attribuer de valeur éthique particulière aux résultats du marché. En fait, une telle approche a depuis longtemps été dévelopée par Mirrlees (1971), dont l’approche a dominé l’économie et de fiscalité au cours des quarante dernières années. Mais, plus récemment, l’approche équitable de la fiscalité va au-delà d’un conséquentialisme étroit du bien-être et attribue une certaine valeur à la répartition marchande des ressources, en ligne avec les théories de la justice proposées par Rawls et Dworkin.

Mots-clés

fiscalité, bien-être, droits de propriété, équité, Mirrlees

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