Insights from Experiments for Public Economics and Public Policy

Recently, I had the honor of serving as a coeditor on a special issue of Public Finance Review with two incredible colleagues: Prof. James C. Cox of Georgia State University and Associate Professor Abhijit Ramalingam of Appalachian State University.

“Public finance” can be defined narrowly as the study of the taxation and expenditure policies of governments at any level. However, it can also be defined more broadly to include a wider variety of policy questions regarding government and or non-government activity in such areas as the definition of property rights, the provision of public goods, or the stewardship of natural resources. We definitely took the latter course in requesting submissions.

What was unusual about our charge is that we were not editing a special volume focused upon a specific topic in public finance, but rather a special volume focused on a methodology, specifically the use of laboratory experimental economics. While this methodology has been around for over half a century and has played a part in the intellectual content of several Nobel Prizes in economics, the regular editors of Public Finance Review asked us to oversee a special set of articles highlighting the use of this methodology for their readers. We accepted four articles with topics on: traditional tax issues, natural resource stewardship, the long-term evolution of social norms and the effects that can have on broader issues of social inequality driven by trust relationships, and the public goods aspects of accurate news reporting. My hope is that this lays the groundwork for more cross-methodology interaction in exploring issues in this important field.

You can learn more about this special issue here.

Dr. Isaac, author of this piece, is a John & Hallie Quinn Eminent Scholar for the Renewal of American Heritage and American Free Enterprise and Courtesy Professor of Law and senior member of the university’s cluster hiring initiative in experimental social science, through the Pathways of Excellence Program. You can learn more about Dr. Isaac here.

Dr. Cox is a Noah Langdale Jr. Chair in Economics, a
Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, and the
Director of the Experimental Economics Center. You can learn more about Dr. Cox here.

Dr. Ramalingam is an associate professor in the department of economics at Appalachian State University. You can learn more about Dr. Ramalingam here.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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