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On the size of U.S. government: political economy in the neoclassical growth model

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  • Per Krusell
  • Jose-Victor Rios-Rull

Abstract

We study a dynamic version of Meltzer and Richard's median-voter analysis of the size of government. Taxes are proportional to total income, and they are used for government consumption, which is exogenous, and for lump-sum transfers, whose size is chosen by electoral vote. Votes take place sequentially over time, and each agent votes for the policy that maximizes his equilibrium utility. We calibrate the model and its income and wealth distribution to match postwar U.S. data. This allows a quantitative assessment of the equilibrium costs of redistribution, which involves distortions to the labor-leisure and consumption-savings choices, and of its benefits for the decisive voter. We find that the total size of transfers predicted by our political-economy model is quite close to the size of transfers in the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 234.

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Date of creation: 1997
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:234

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Keywords: Econometric models ; Taxation;

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  1. Alesina, Alberto F & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 565, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1996. "Intergenerational Redistribution with Short-lived Governments," CEPR Discussion Papers 1396, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Killingsworth, Mark R. & Heckman, James J., 1987. "Female labor supply: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 103-204 Elsevier.
  4. Krusell, Per & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1997. "Politico-economic equilibrium and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 243-272, January.
  5. Saint-Paul, Gilles & Verdier, Thierry, 1993. "Education, democracy and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 399-407, December.
  6. Piketty, Thomas, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-84, August.
  7. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
  8. Sarte, Pierre-Daniel G., 1997. "Progressive taxation and income inequality in dynamic competitive equilibrium," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 145-171, October.
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  10. Aiyagari, S. Rao & Gertler, Mark, 1991. "Asset returns with transactions costs and uninsured individual risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 311-331, June.
  11. Per Krusell & José-Victor Ríos-Rull, 1994. "What Constitutions Promote Capital Accumulation? A Political-Economy Approach," Wallis Working Papers WP1, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
  12. Krusell, Per & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1996. "Vested Interests in a Positive Theory of Stagnation and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 301-29, April.
  13. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B, 1992. "Public versus Private Investment in Human Capital Endogenous Growth and Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 818-34, August.
  14. Giuseppe Bertola, 1991. "Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth," NBER Working Papers 3851, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Javier Díaz-Giménez & Vincenzo Quadrini & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 1997. "Dimensions of inequality: facts on the U.S. distributions of earnings, income, and wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-21.
  16. Jaume Ventura & Francesco Caselli, 2000. "A Representative Consumer Theory of Distribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 909-926, September.
  17. Diaz-Gimenez, Javier & Prescott, Edward C. & Fitzgerald, Terry & Alvarez, Fernando, 1992. "Banking in computable general equilibrium economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 533-559.
  18. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  19. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  20. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1996. "Life-Cycle Economies and Aggregate Fluctuations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 465-89, July.
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  23. Boyd, J.H., 1994. "The Existence of Steady States in Multisector Capital Accumulation Models with Recursive Preferences," RCER Working Papers 392, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  24. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  25. Chatterjee, Satyajit, 1994. "Transitional dynamics and the distribution of wealth in a neoclassical growth model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 97-119, May.
  26. Imrohoruglu, Ayse, 1989. "Cost of Business Cycles with Indivisibilities and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1364-83, December.
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  30. repec:fth:coluec:595 is not listed on IDEAS
  31. Mark Huggett, 1995. "The one-sector growth model with idiosyncratic shocks," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 105, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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