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La théorisation des dépenses publiques de Richard A. Musgrave : essai d’histoire de la pensée et d’épistémologie économiques

Abstract : The theorization of public expenditures in the twentieth century is a rationalization in the language of modern economics of social and political concerns regarding the role of the state. The thesis adopts a historical and philosophical perspective on two central concepts of Richard A. Musgrave’s (1910-2007) Theory of Public Finance (1959): merit goods and social goods (or collective goods). Musgrave was more successful in introducing the definition of social (collective) goods in public economics (non-excludable and non-rival) than with his concept of merit goods. Yet, I suggest that he coined the latter because he wanted to build a comprehensive normative theory of the public household that would be useful for steering the revenue-expenditure processes. The two concepts play complementary roles in his theory which is a synthesis of various European traditions in public finance. Despite the rejection of merit goods by many economists, Musgrave’s view on redistribution in-kind to fight poverty was shared by many liberal economists in the postwar period. The alternative approach to public finance of Buchanan is also discussed. I show that it is complicated to oppose Musgrave’s and Buchanan’s approaches along the positive/normative methodological line. In contrast, the friendly discussions between Samuelson and Musgrave led to a refinement of the market failure argument for public provision of collective goods. I identify the centrality of the principle of consumer sovereignty in this paradigm and I show how the literature on the justification of merit goods can be structured with respect to this principle.
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Contributor : Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay <>
Submitted on : Friday, February 24, 2017 - 10:56:27 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 11:08:31 AM
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  • HAL Id : tel-01475790, version 1



Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay. La théorisation des dépenses publiques de Richard A. Musgrave : essai d’histoire de la pensée et d’épistémologie économiques. Economies et finances. Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne; Université de Lausanne, 2016. Français. ⟨tel-01475790⟩



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