The Way We Were (And Are): Changes in Public Finance and Its Textbooks
NBER Working Paper No. 5972 (Also Reprint No. r2174)
This paper uses a comparison of a contemporary Public Finance textbook with one written in the 1940s as a vehicle for assessing the changes in the field since the beginning of the National Tax Journal 50 years ago. The comparison indicates that there have been major changes in the field. From a methodological point of view, the most important change is the embrace of microeconomic theory as the framework for analyzing both positive and normative issues. In addition, the incorporation of econometrics has dramatically affected the field. With respect to topical coverage, research in Public Finance has changed along with the items on the public policy agenda, and the results of this new research have made their way into contemporary textbooks. But there is continuity as well as change: some topics and their treatments have metamorphosed very little in the last half century.