55 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016 Last revised: 5 Nov 2020
Date Written: 2016
The United States has increasingly designed certain public spending programs not as traditional tax-financed programs, but rather as mixtures of private expenditures, subsidies, and limited taxes. Thus part of what could have gone to the government as a tax is instead used to purchase the good or service directly, with only incremental taxes and subsidies to manage distributional goals. This Article terms this “quasi-public spending,” and argues that it is descriptive of our evolving approaches to both health care and higher education. Based on this observation, the Article defines and analyzes quasi-public spending and compares it to both traditional public spending and tax expenditures. The Article finds that in some situations, quasi-public spending may be a worthwhile approach to financing public programs, though with some qualifications. Based on this analysis, the Article puts forward a framework for when policymakers should use quasi-public spending and applies that framework to a number of policy questions.
JEL Classification: H51, H52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation