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The Institutional Framework for Shared Consumption: Deemphasizing Taxation in the Theory of Public Finance

Author: RICHARD E. WAGNER
Published in PFM, Vol. 12 No. 1

Expositions of the theory of public finance mostly presume that taxation is the primary instrument for generating revenues. This presumption, however, is neither historically accurate nor theoretically necessary. Taxation is a feature of a particular arrangement of ownership which is capable of variation. This paper explores some of that variation in a manner that puts taxation into the background of a theory of public finance while bringing the social organization of shared consumption into the foreground. For instance, cities are corporate bodies which can be organized under diverse institutional arrangements, only a subset of which will give scope to taxation rather than pricing through contract. In this respect, there is a deep similarity between cities and such entities as hotels and malls regarding the types of services they supply, along with a difference in structures of ownership and forms of revenue.

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