This book is an attempt to give a logical and coherent exposition of public finance, setting out the theoretical and technical issues involved and indicating what, in our judgment, are the topics especially worthy of serious attention. The approach is at once empirical and analytical; we follow the tradition of trying to explain the evidence--an approach which requires the selection of the evidence to be explained. In the theoretical analysis, we have tried to demonstrate how economic intelligence can be made to shed light on an eminently practical subject.
The work draws mainly on American experience in fiscal affairs, but wherever feasible we have taken advantage of the accumulating evidence about the public finances of other countries, both advanced and less advanced. We have tried to keep in mind the crucial importance of public finance in the underdeveloped countries with their desperate need for effective economic programs and for methods to finance them; partly for this reason a systematic discussion of the spendings tax has been included.
Because many of the topics in public finance are controversial, an account suitable for the student must do justice to various points of view so that he may understand what the issues are. However, we have tried to avoid giving the impression that one idea is just as good as another or that an interminable vacillation is the mark of the sophisticated intellect. Often we have indicated which views we favor; those who want criticisms of these opinions will find in the references and suggested readings an abundance of ammunition.
In the organization of the book, we have tried to make the relationship of government expenditure to government revenues and debt more meaningful by combining our general treatment of expenditures with the descriptive-historical material on revenue and debt. The analytical issues involving government expenditures are discussed under various headings, sometimes separately and sometimes combined with revenues. Current social security programs, a large factor in the expenditures of many governments, are treated in one chapter and the vexing . . .