Matthew Weinzierl, 03 September 2017

Under a welfarist approach, tax policy is judged on its implications for the well-being of those in the society to which it applies. An implicit vulnerability of this approach is that judgements are based on necessarily incomplete cost and benefit calculations. This column investigates people’s preferences for welfarist and non-welfarist approaches by exploring responses to envy. A narrow majority of respondents reject a redistribution of resources that raises overall welfare by assuaging envy. These respondents seem to be using non-welfarist principles to encode concerns about indirect policy consequences.

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