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Where's The Money Coming From? How Tax And Spending Debates Frame Electoral Politics

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Tax and spending are central to democratic politics in the UK and elsewhere, but political scientists have paid surprisingly little attention to the practice of manifesto costings or the ways in which fiscal promises shape voting behaviour. This paper explores how British parties have used manifesto costings to frame prospective choices for voters since the 1950s, and develops a theoretical framework for understanding why warnings about ‘tax bombshells’ and ‘black holes’ in parties’ spending plans seem to be so powerful in Westminster democracies such as the UK. Whereas retrospective evaluations of economic performance can be difficult for governments to control, forward-looking fiscal debates are structurally weighed towards incumbent parties. Other constitutional structures may have very different implications for the role of public opinion in the tax policy-making process.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Tax Discussion Group series.

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