Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This book provides a systematic treatment of the major themes in public economics. It is primarily theoretical although empirical results and simulation results are described where these illustrate the theoretical arguments. The merit of the theoretical approach is that it provides arguments and methods of reasoning that are not dependent on transitory institutional detail but can be applied in a wide variety of contexts. The unifying feature of the analysis is the employment of general equilibrium theory to provide a consistent foundation on which results are developed. The use of general equilibrium techniques reflects the author's belief that, since the secondary effects of policy can sometimes outweigh the direct effects, this is the only method that can provide defensible conclusions.
The book is written primarily for graduate students and economists from other fields wishing to learn about public economics. Although this means that some sections are advanced, and some of the proofs terse, there is much that can be profitably read by advanced undergraduates. In fact, the first three chapters could constitute a self-contained treatment of general equilibrium and welfare economics for such students. I have also attempted to structure the chapters so that the basic points are made early on in the simplest acceptable framework. For graduate students, the book should show them public economics as it appears in academic journals. If they wish really to understand the material and intend to contribute to its future development, then mastery of the methods of argument and the details of proofs is essential.
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