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Regressive Taxation and the Welfare State: Path Dependence and Policy Diffusion (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics) Hardcover – September 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"Too few political scientists have seriously examined the politics of taxation and the role it has in the political economy of modern states. Junko Kato's Regressive Taxation and the Welfare State bridges a major gap in understanding of the financing of the modern state. Her intriguing argument challenges the naive notion that progressive states must be financed through progressive taxes and in doing so, it makes an important contribution to the policy debate across the OECD." Sven Steinmo, University of Colorado

"Recent theories of globalization have presented us with a very strong argument, namely that economic integration forces modern welfare states to converge. In this truly comparative and well-researched book, Junko Kato delivers an intriguing result. It is a genuinely counter-intuitive, yet very convincing argument about the importance of the institutional foundation of the taxation side of welfare states. In this, Kato successfully challenges several well-established theories in comparative politics. The puzzle she portrays and explains is theoretically important for our understanding of the increasing variation in size between modern welfare states." Bo Rothstein, Goteborg University

"Overall, Kato provides a compelling mix of quantitative and qualitative data to equip the reader with some useful tools for considering what is at stake in the ongoing debate over the future of welfare state funding." Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

Book Description

Government size has attracted much scholarly attention. Political economists have considered large public expenditures a product of leftist rule and an expression of a stronger representation of labor interest. The formation of government's funding base has not been thoroughly explored. This book sheds new light on this neglected area. Beginning with a clarification of the development of postwar tax policies in industrial democracies, Junko Kato finds that the differentiation of tax revenue structure is path dependent upon the shift to regressive taxation.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics
  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521824524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521824521
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,823,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Regressive Taxation and the Welfare State examines the relationship between the forms of state revenue extraction and the scope of modern welfare states. While sometimes incomplete, the argument is nuanced and interesting--as well as surprisingly not as ideologically driven as the title may suggest. Whether you're convinced by her analysis or not, this book offers some nice comparisons of the evolution of modern tax policy across major industrialized nations. In particular, the shift away from direct taxation toward the value added tax and social security contributions.

Kato's main aim is to explain the divergent funding for OECD nations and why, paradoxically, some came to finance broad, sustained welfare states with regressive taxes. That is, countries with high tax capacity adopted consumptive taxes, like the VAT, to promote the expansion of welfare states that weathered the neoliberal backlash of the 1980s. Path dependence--in the language of New Institutional Ecnomics--matters for Kato's study: when and whether a nation implemented the VAT set in motion centrifugal (or centripetal) political economic forces that allowed states to expand and provision welfare states (early VAT enactors), while others failed to do so.

Economists and public finance researchers may find some of the empirics lacking--even while Kato invokes some cross country regression methods and nice descriptive statistics. Some of the gold standard methods of examining regressivity and tax incidence are nowhere to be found, leaving perhaps an incomplete picture of tax policy between nations.
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