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The Forgotten History of Domestic Debt

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Kenneth S. Rogoff

Abstract

There is a rich scholarly literature on sovereign default on external debt. Comparatively little is known about sovereign defaults on domestic debt. Even today, cross-country data on domestic public debt remains curiously exotic, particularly prior to the 1980s. We have filled this gap in the literature by compiling a database on central government public debt (external and domestic). The data span 1914 to 2007 for most countries, reaching back into the nineteenth century for many. Our findings on debt sustainability, sovereign defaults, the temptation to inflate, and the hierarchy of creditors only scratch the surface of what the domestic public debt data can reveal. First, domestic debt is big -- for the 64 countries for which we have long time series, domestic debt accounts for almost two-thirds of total public debt. For most of the sample, this debt carries a market interest rate (except for the financial repression era between WWII and financial liberalization). Second, the data go a long ways toward explaining the puzzle of why countries so often default on their external debts at seemingly low debt thresholds. Third, domestic debt has largely been ignored in the vast empirical work on inflation. In fact, domestic debt (a significant portion of which is long term and non-indexed) is often much larger than the monetary base in the run-up to high inflation episodes. Last, the widely-held view that domestic residents are strictly junior to external creditors does not find broad support.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 121 (2011)
Issue (Month): 552 (05)
Pages: 319-350

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:121:y:2011:i:552:p:319-350

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References

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  1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "Debt intolerance," MPRA Paper 13932, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Brock, Philip L, 1989. "Reserve Requirements and the Inflation Tax," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(1), pages 106-21, February.
  4. Sargent, Thomas J & Velde, Francois R, 1995. "Macroeconomic Features of the French Revolution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 474-518, June.
  5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2008. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 13882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Graciela L. Kaminsky & Carmen M. Reinhart & Carlos A. Végh, 2005. "When It Rains, It Pours: Procyclical Capital Flows and Macroeconomic Policies," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2004, Volume 19, pages 11-82 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Torsten Persson & Gerard Roland & Guido Tabellini, 2000. "Comparative Politics and Public Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1121-1161, December.
  8. Anastasia Guscina & Olivier Jeanne, 2006. "Government Debt in Emerging Market Countries: A New Data Set," IMF Working Papers 06/98, International Monetary Fund.
  9. Robert J. Barro, 1984. "Inflationary Finance under Discrepion and Rules," NBER Working Papers 0889, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Rudiger Dornbusch & Stanley Fischer, 1993. "Moderate Inflation," NBER Working Papers 3896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Carmen M. Reinhart, 2010. "This Time is Different Chartbook: Country Histories on Debt, Default, and Financial Crises," NBER Working Papers 15815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Kevin Cowan & Eduardo Levy Yeyati & Ugo Panizza & Federico Sturzenegger, 2006. "Sovereign Debt In The Americas: New Data and Stylized Facts," Business School Working Papers 2006-09, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  13. Reinhart, Carmen & Savastano, Miguel, 2003. "The Realities of Modern Hyperinflation," MPRA Paper 7578, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1988. "Social Contracts as Assets: A Possible Solution to the Time-Consistency Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 662-77, September.
  15. Mark Aguiar & Gita Gopinath, 2004. "Emerging Market Business Cycles: The Cycle is the Trend," NBER Working Papers 10734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  17. M. Ayhan Kose & Kenneth Rogoff & Eswar Prasad & Shang-Jin Wei, 2003. "Effects of Financial Globalization on Developing Countries: Some Empirical Evidence," IMF Occasional Papers 220, International Monetary Fund.
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