The Review of Austrian Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 75–92 | Cite as

An alternative to the Laffer curve: Theory and consequences

  • Enrico Colombatto


The Laffer curve is often used to analyze revenue-maximizing tax pressure and to provide normative suggestions to policymakers. We suggest that although the Laffer curve provides valuable insights, revenue maximization is not the only factor guiding policymakers’ decisions in regard to the suitable tax pressure. Thus, we try to broaden the spectrum by replacing the Laffer curve with a different graphical instrument, which takes into account three key variables: the quality of public expenditure, ideology (the role of populism) and rent-seeking. By means of this new graphical instrument, we derive results that shed light on the nature of the equilibria various countries can hope to obtain, as well as on the features of the imbalances. We then extend our insights to an open-economy contest featuring tax competition. In particular, we assess when tax competition is relevant, and we investigate whether the proposed remedy–tax harmonization–is credible. It is argued that tax harmonization is inferior to cooperation and that it is in fact an intermediate step on the way towards tax centralization.


Laffer curve Tax strategies Populism Rent-seeking 

JEL classification

H3 H7 H8 



Niclas Berggren, Christine Henderson, David Lipka and two referees of this Review read previous drafts of this paper and contributed very valuable comments. I thank them all.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università di Torino, School of Management and EconomicsTorinoItaly

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