Unit vs. ad valorem taxes in multi-product Cournot oligopoly

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2009-08-13
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Hennessy, David
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Lapan, Harvey
University Professor Emeritus
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Economics

The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 to teach economic theory as a truth of industrial life, and was very much concerned with applying economics to business and industry, particularly agriculture. Between 1910 and 1967 it showed the growing influence of other social studies, such as sociology, history, and political science. Today it encompasses the majors of Agricultural Business (preparing for agricultural finance and management), Business Economics, and Economics (for advanced studies in business or economics or for careers in financing, management, insurance, etc).

History
The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 under the Division of Industrial Science (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); it became co-directed by the Division of Agriculture in 1919. In 1910 it became the Department of Economics and Political Science. In 1913 it became the Department of Applied Economics and Social Science; in 1924 it became the Department of Economics, History, and Sociology; in 1931 it became the Department of Economics and Sociology. In 1967 it became the Department of Economics, and in 2007 it became co-directed by the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Business.

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1898–present

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  • Department of Economic Science (1898–1910)
  • Department of Economics and Political Science (1910-1913)
  • Department of Applied Economics and Social Science (1913–1924)
  • Department of Economics, History and Sociology (1924–1931)
  • Department of Economics and Sociology (1931–1967)

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The welfare dominance of ad valorem taxes over unit taxes in a single-market Cournot oligopoly is well-known. This article extends the analysis to multi-market oligopoly. Provided all ad valorem taxes are positive, unit costs are constant, firms are active in all considered markets, and a representative consumer has convex preferences, it is shown that ad valorem taxes dominate in multi-product equilibrium. We discuss the role of unit cost covariances across multi-product firms in determining the extent of cost efficiencies arising under ad valorem taxation. The issue of merger under oligopoly is also considered. Conditions are identified under which a merger increases the sum of consumer and producer surpluses while also increasing the revenue yield from a set of unit taxes. If not all firms are active in all considered markets, then it is also shown that additional conditions are required to ensure the dominance of ad valorem taxes. In multi-input Cournot oligopsony, however, unit taxation welfare dominates. This is because ad valorem taxes on inputs reduce demand elasticities, amplifying market power distortions.

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