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Government Solvency, Ponzi Finance and the Redundancy and Usefulness of Public Debt

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  • Buiter, W.H.
  • Kletzer, K.M.

Abstract

We investigate how the ability of the government to depart from budget balance and issue debt expands the set of equilibria that can be supported using lump-sum tax-transfer instruments. We show how this depends on the restrictions that exist on the capacity to tax and make transfer payments, and what these restrictions imply for the government's ability to issue debt. Central to our analysis is the definition of solvency for an infinite-lived government in an infinite-lived economy with overlapping generations of finite-lived households. Our specification is derived from the demand for public debt by private agents and the non-negativity constraints on the capital stock and on private consumption by all generations. Under fairly tight restrictions on the government's tax-transfer menu, our solvency constraint implies the conventional solvency constraint. With unrestricted taxes and transfers Ponzi finance is always possible but 'inessential": it does not expand the set of equilibria that can be supported. Ponzi finance can be "essential" when taxes and transfers are restricted. The paper establishes a number of results that demonstrate how the government's ability to issue debt allows restricted tax-transfer schemes to support all equilibria attainable using unrestricted taxes and transfers

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Yale - Economic Growth Center in its series Papers with number 659.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: 1992
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:yalegr:659

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Phone: (203) 432-3610
Fax: (203) 432-3898
Web page: http://www.econ.yale.edu/~egcenter/
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Keywords: policy making ; taxes ; household ; consumption;

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References

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  1. Martin Feldstein, 1986. "The Effects of Fiscal Policies When Incomes are Uncertain: A Contradiction to Ricardian Equivalence," NBER Working Papers 2062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Philippe Weil, 1992. "Dynamic Efficiency, the Riskless Rate, and Debt Ponzi Games Under Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 3992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andrew B. Abel, . "The Implications of Insurance for the Efficacy of Fiscal Policy," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 6-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  4. Shell, Karl, 1971. "Notes on the Economics of Infinity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(5), pages 1002-11, Sept.-Oct.
  5. Gordon, Roger H. & Varian, Hal R., 1988. "Intergenerational risk sharing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 185-202, November.
  6. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1991. "Generational accounts: a meaningful alternative to deficit accounting," Working Paper 9103, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  7. Enders, Walter & Lapan, Harvey E, 1982. "Social Security Taxation and Intergenerational Risk Sharing," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 23(3), pages 647-58, October.
  8. Eaton, Jonathan & Rosen, Harvey S, 1980. "Taxation, Human Capital, and Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 705-15, September.
  9. Zilcha, Itzhak, 1990. "Dynamic efficiency in overlapping generations models with stochastic production," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 364-379, December.
  10. Bennett T. McCallum, 1982. "Are Bond-Financed Deficits Inflationary? A Ricardian Analysis," NBER Working Papers 0905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467.
  12. Louis Kaplow, 1991. "A Note on Taxation as Social Insurance for Uncertain Labor Income," NBER Working Papers 3708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. W.H. Buiter, 1997. "Aspects of Fiscal Performance in Some Transition Economies Under Fund-Supported Programs," CEP Discussion Papers dp0333, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Shuanglin Lin, 1994. "Capital taxation and accumulation in a growing world economy with deficit finance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 127-146, October.
  3. Cuddington, John T., 1997. "Analyzing the sustainability of fiscal deficitsin developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1784, The World Bank.

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