THE PRINCIPLE OF MAXIMUM SOCIAL ADVANTAGE
One of the important principles of public finance is the so – called Principle of Maximum Social Advantage explained by Professor Hugh Dalton. Just like an individual seeks to maximize his satisfaction or welfare by the use of his resources, the state ought to maximize social advantage or benefit from the resources at its command.
The principles of maximum social advantage are applied to determine whether the tax or the expenditure has proved to be of the optimum benefit. Hence, the principle is called the principle of public finance. According to Dalton, “This (Principle) lies at the very root of public finance” He again says “The best system of public finance is that which secures the maximum social advantage from the operations which it conducts.” It may be also called the principle of maximum social benefit. A.C. Pigou has called it the principle of maximum aggregate welfare.
Public expenditure creates utility for those people on whom the amount is spent. When the volume of expenditure is small with a slighter increase in it, the additional utility is very high. As the total public expenditure goes on increasing in course of time, the law of diminishing marginal utility operates. People derive less of satisfaction from additional unit of public expenditure as the government spends more and more. That is, after a stage, every increase in public expenditure creates less and less benefit for the people. Taxation, on the other hand, imposes burden on the people.
So, when the volume of taxation becomes high, every further increase in taxation increases the burden of it more and more. People under go greater scarifies for every additional unit of taxation. The best policy of the government is to balance both sides of fiscal operations by comparing “the burden of tax” and “the benefits of public expenditure”. The State should balance the social burden of taxation and social benefits of Public expenditure in order to have maximum social advantage.
Attainment of maximum social advantage requires that;
a) Both public expenditure and taxation should be carried out up to certain limits and no more.
b) Public expenditure should be utilized among the various uses in an optimum manner, and
c) The different sources of taxation should be so tapped that the aggregate scarifies entailed is the minimum.
Assumptions of this theory:
1.All taxes result in sacrifice and all public expenditures lead to benefit.
2. Public revenue consist of only taxes and there is no other source of income to the government.
3. The govt. has no surplus or deficit budget but only a balanced budget.
Diagrammatical Explanation of the theory of maximum social advantages
In the above diagram, MSS is the marginal social sacrifice curve sloping upward from left to right. This rising curve indicates that the marginal social sacrifice goes on increasing with every additional dose of taxation. MSB is the marginal social benefit curve sloping downwards from the left to right. This falling curve indicates that the marginal social benefit diminishes with every additional dose of public expenditure. The two curves MSS and MSB intersect each other at the point P. PM represents both marginal social sacrifice as well as marginal social benefit. Both are equal at OM which represents the maximum social advantage.
Criticism of the theory of Maximum Social Advantages
1. Non measurability of social sacrifice and social benefit: The major drawback of this principle is that it is not possible in actual practice to measure the MSS and MSB involved in the fiscal operation of the state.
2. Non applicability of the low of equimarginal utility in public expenditure: The low of equimarginal utility may be applicable to private expenditure but certainly not to public expenditure.
3. Neglect non-tax revenue: The principle says that the entire public expenditure is financed by taxation. But, in practice, a significant portion of public expenditure is also financed by other sources like public borrowing, profits from public sector enterprises, imposition of fees, penalties etc.
4. Lack of divisibility: The marginal benefit from public expenditure and marginal sacrifice from taxation can be equated only when public expenditure and taxation are divided into smaller units. But this is not possible practically.
5. Assumption of static condition: Condition in an economy are not static and are continuously changing. What might be considered as the point of maximum social advantage under some conditions may not be so under some other.
6. Misuse of government funds: The principle of Maximum social advantage is based on the assumption that the government funds are utilized in the most effective manner to generate marginal social benefit. However, quite often a large share of government funds is misused for unproductive purposes
7. "The govt. has no surplus or deficit budget but only a balanced budget."- is an invalid assumption.