NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Utilitarianism and Horizontal Equity: The Case for Random Taxation

Joseph E. Stiglitz

NBER Working Paper No. 694 (Also Reprint No. r0333)
Issued in June 1981
NBER Program(s):   PE

This paper establishes that, far from being able to derive the principle of horizontal equity from utilitarianism, the principle is actually in- consistent with utilitarianism in a variety of circumstances. We derive conditions under which (a) it is optimal to impose random tax schedules (ex post randomization) ; and (b) it is optimal to randomize the tax schedules imposed on a set of otherwise identical individuals (ex ante randomization). The implications for optimal tax theory are discussed. More generally, it is shown that there are a number of potentially important economic situations with which the principle of horizontal equity may be inconsistent not only with utilitarianism but even with Pareto optimality.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w0694

Published: Stiglitz, Joseph E. "Utilitarianism and Horizontal Equity: The Case for Random Taxation." Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 18, No. 1 (June 1982) pp. 1-33. citation courtesy of

 
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