When confronted with information that ordinary citizens do not care that strongly about efficiency, do economists change their views of optimal public policy? In a randomized experiment on tax preferences conducted among business and economics students in Tanzania, we supplied the treatment group with information that ordinary citizens disagree with implications of efficiency-based optimal tax theory. Tax preferences were then measured using discrete choice experiments. The results show that the treated students modify their position in the direction of public opinion, an effect driven by students with longer exposure to economics. An economics education hence seems to produce professionals who are part democrats and part technocratic paternalists.

Ivar Kolstad

Associated Senior Researcher

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance