This book grew out of a course of lectures given originally for third-year undergraduates reading for honours in economics and, more recently, for second and third-year undergraduates reading for honours in economics or in government. It does therefore presuppose a one-year basic course in economic principles, and is intended primarily to be read as part of a general study of economics, in which Public Finance is but one component. Nevertheless, the course has been taken with considerable success by the government honours students too, who have had no other economics than the usual first-year course on principles. It would therefore appear to be quite accessible to non-specialists with a serious interest in the subject, but it is not a suitable text for the absolute beginner. Since all institutional material has been excluded, and the examples quoted are fairly general, a broad outline knowledge of some actual tax structure and budgetary process would be an advantage, so that the reader is in a position to cast the principles propounded here into some definite mould. Otherwise, this book is intended as a self-contained introductory text on the economics of public finance and budgetary policy.
I have tried to resist the temptation to explore too many of the byways, rather sticking resolutely to the main highways, even though now and again I have looked over my shoulder a little fearfully at my professional colleagues as I have casually brushed aside difficulties and skated deftly (I hope) over those knotty points which are the theoretical economist's bread and butter. I have also suppressed from the text all footnotes and source references, not in any surreptitious attempt to lay claim to being the author (in any ultimate sense) of the ideas or logical systems expounded, but simply in order to allow the exposition to flow in as uncluttered a manner as possible. Indeed, those well versed in this subject will recognize immediately how derivative much of the analysis is, and some acknowledgement of the debt I owe to others is indicated by the references given for further reading at the end of each chapter. These have been chosen, however, primarily with the needs of the beginner in mind, and are not necessarily original source material, for the brilliant insight, imperfectly articulated or understood, no matter how important and fruitful in the development of economic doctrine, is less valuable in the introductory phase than a good survey article.
Besides the debt I owe to the many writers who have grappled successfully with the economic problems of public finance and . . .