The Humean Critique of Lump Sum Taxation (or the Implausibility of Pure Lump Sum Taxes in Autocracy)

Abstract

This paper revives Hume's idea that it is unlikely forsovereign governments to implement pure lump-sum taxationbecause lump-sum taxes are arbitrary. We phrase the problem asone of time-inconsistency of tax collection for a tax revenuemaximizing Leviathan government. We demonstrate that whilelump-sum taxation is more efficient than distortionary incometax in terms of the ex ante amount of tax revenueraised, honoring a lump-sum tax is less likely to be crediblethan honoring a distortionary income tax. We also extend theframework to understanding the relationship betweenexpropriation risk and the lack of foreign direct investment.

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Tam, H. The Humean Critique of Lump Sum Taxation (or the Implausibility of Pure Lump Sum Taxes in Autocracy). Public Choice 118, 61–76 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:PUCH.0000013800.88314.34

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Keywords

  • Foreign Direct Investment
  • Public Finance
  • Direct Investment
  • Humean Critique
  • Leviathan Government