This was the presidential address given at the National Tax Association meeting on November 14, 2002, exploring the long term developments in public finance. In particular, it focuses on four areas: First, both external events and the advancement of knowledge have brought public finance analysis to a stage where taxes can no longer be compartmentalized so easily from spending. Second, many problems of public finance are at their core problems of economic accounting, and the two disciplines of economics and accounting need to be brought into better alignment. Third, the notion of federalism must be expanded to encompass better the activities of nonprofit organizations, the press, and other sources of independent power that complement public functions and provide for further checks and balances. Finally, never before in history have government budgets promised so much for the future, thereby creating a desperate need both for analysis that can reveal the decline in flexibility and for rules that can restore it.
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