Towards a tax constitution for Leviathan

Published

Journal Article

This paper attempts to derive normative tax rules based on the constitutional calculus of the typical voter-taxpayer when he predicts that post-constitutional political processes will be dominated by a budget-maximizing Leviathan-like bureaucracy. In this setting, selection of tax institutions becomes part of the apparatus by which Leviathan is constrained. Such an approach generates tax rules strikingly at variance with more conventional norms. In particular, the goal of a 'comprehensive' tax base, which informs standard analysis, gives way to a preference for specific limitations on the width of the tax base: moves towards a greater comprehensiveness will lead inexorably to larger public spending, and beyond some point are clearly undesirable. The analysis also implies a rather unconventional defense of progression in the tax structure. An attempt is made to relate the discussion to contemporary tax reform issues. © 1977.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Brennan, G; Buchanan, JM

Published Date

  • January 1, 1977

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 255 - 273

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0047-2727

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0047-2727(77)90001-9

Citation Source

  • Scopus