Building on the work of James Mirrlees, Anthony Atkinson and Joseph Stiglitz, and subsequent researchers, and in the spirit of classics by A. C. Pigou, William Vickrey, and Richard Musgrave, this book steps back from particular lines of inquiry to consider the field as a whole, including the relationships among different fiscal instruments. Louis Kaplow puts forward a framework that makes it possible to rigorously examine both distributive and distortionary effects of particular policies despite their complex interactions with others. To do so, various reforms--ranging from commodity or estate and gift taxation to regulation and public goods provision--are combined with a distributively offsetting adjustment to the income tax. The resulting distribution-neutral reform package holds much constant while leaving in play the distinctive effects of the policy instrument under consideration. By applying this common methodology to disparate subjects, The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics produces significant cross-fertilization and yields solutions to previously intractable problems.
Louis Kaplow is the Finn M. W. Caspersen and Household International Professor of Law and Economics at Harvard, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has published widely on the theory of taxation and public economics.