There are many reasons for studying taxation. As the ancient Roman writer Cicero pointed out so succinctly, when he called it the sinews of the state, taxation is central to the existence and functioning of a nation, as well as to the functioning of its lower levels of government. Taxing citizens is a vital method of financing the most essential public sector activities, such as the courts, the legal system, national defense, and police protection. In addition, it provides the means for producing social programs, such as public health services, education, and welfare. Finally, taxation is one of the most important ways in which a community’s distributional goals may be attained.

In this paper we review both the positive and normative aspects of taxation. We examine how to study why taxes and revenue structures have taken their present form and why they are used in a particular way as part of the democratic process.

In addition, we also consider the classic normative questions, namely what makes a good tax system and how to assess the efficiency of taxation. In dealing with both aspects of tax literature, we attempt to set out a plan for a more complete and comprehensive analysis of taxation in the face of collective choice than is attempted in most of the available literature on fiscal issues.


Public Choice Median Voter Collective Choice Excess Burden Political Equilibrium 
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  • Stanley L. Winer
  • Walter Hettich

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