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Some Ethical Problems with Using Public Finance as a Tool for Social Engineering

Author: ROBERT W. MCGEE
Published in PFM, Vol. 1 No. 3

Governments raise funds so that they can pay for the services they
provide to their constituents. But sometimes the public finance function
goes beyond mere revenue raising and into the realm of social engineering.
Excise taxes, for example, can go beyond mere user fees if the intent is to
punish certain forms of behavior. Income taxes can be imposed not only to
raise revenue but also to redistribute income. Tax subsidies can be used to
subsidize certain forms of behavior. This article explores some of the
ethical problems that can result when the public finance function goes
beyond mere revenue raising and into the realm of social engineering.

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