Monday, April 21, 2008
Eric Zolt (UCLA) presents Inequality, Collective Action, and Taxing and Spending Patterns of State and Local Governments at Harvard today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series. Here is the abstract:
Scholars have examined how inequality influences the development of different types of institutions. This article takes a historical perspective to examine how economic inequality and challenges to collective action may have contributed to different taxing and spending patterns of state and local governments in the United States. Particularly before the Great Depression, clear differences existed among state and local governments in different regions of the United States. Differences existed in the absolute and relative size of state and local governments, the use of different tax instruments to fund government operations, and the size and nature of spending programs. The evidence suggests that those areas with greater economic equality chose to acquire common goods and services collectively and to impose taxes to fund those expenditures at a greater relative level than areas with greater inequality. These patterns continued through World War II, and, to a much lesser extent, to the present day. This article also examines the dramatic changes in the relative roles of local, state, and federal governments in assessing taxes and providing common goods and services. Over the last 100 years, the relative reduction in the size of local government (and the corresponding increase in state and federal governments) may have weakened the relationship among inequality, collective action, and the taxing and spending patterns of local governments.