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Testing the positive theory of government finance

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  • Bizer, David S.
  • Durlauf, Steven N.

Abstract

Researchers characterizing optimal tax policies for dynamic economies have reasoned that optimally chosen tax rates should approximately follow a random walk. We conduct a frequency-domain examination of the properties of the tax rate series and conclude that while there is a substantial smoothing role for debt, one rejects the hypothesis that the first difference in the series is white noise. This conclusion follows both from an analysis of the entire spectral distribution function of tax changes as well as from the behavior of individual frequencies. The source of the rejection is pronounced activity of tax changes at an eight year cycle which is suggestive of an electoral component to tax changes. Regression analysis confirms the finding that there is a cyclical component to tax changes corresponding to changes in political party administration. The results suggest that the positive theory of government finance needs to be refined to incorporate features of political equilibrium.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bizer, David S. & Durlauf, Steven N., 1990. "Testing the positive theory of government finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 123-141, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:26:y:1990:i:1:p:123-141
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    1. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
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    Cited by:

    1. Blomberg, S. Brock & Hess, Gregory D., 2003. "Is the political business cycle for real?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1091-1121, May.
    2. Durlauf, Steven N., 1991. "Spectral based testing of the martingale hypothesis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 355-376, December.
    3. Pettersson Lidbom, Per, 2003. "A Test of the Rational Electoral-Cycle Hypothesis," Research Papers in Economics 2003:16, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Gerald D. Cohen & Nouriel Roubini, 1992. "Macroeconomic Policy And Elections In Oecd Democracies," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(1), pages 1-30, March.
    5. Andres Velasco, 1997. "A Model of Endogenous Fiscal Deficits and Delayed Fiscal Reforms," NBER Working Papers 6336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andres Velasco, 1999. "A Model of Endogenous Fiscal Deficits and Delayed Fiscal Reforms," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 37-58, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Ashworth, John & Heyndels, Bruno, 2002. "Tax Structure Turbulence in OECD Countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 111(3-4), pages 347-376, June.
    8. Antje Berndt & Hanno Lustig & Şevin Yeltekin, 2012. "How Does the US Government Finance Fiscal Shocks?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 69-104, January.
    9. McPherson, Matthew Q. & Palardy, Joseph & Vilasuso, Jon, 2005. "Are international stock returns predictable?: An application of spectral shape tests corrected for heteroskedasticity," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 103-118.
    10. Maurice Obstfeld, 1989. "Dynamic Seigniorage Theory: An Exploration," NBER Working Papers 2869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Dimitris K. Christopoulos & John Loizides & Efthymios G. Tsionas, 2009. "Electoral Motives, Partisan Motives And Dynamic Optimality With Many Taxes: An International Investigation," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 56(1), pages 94-113, February.
    12. W. Robert Reed & Cynthia L. Rogers, 2006. "Tax Burden and the Mismeasurement of State Tax Policy," Public Finance Review, , vol. 34(4), pages 404-426, July.
    13. Dole, C. A., 2000. "Optimal Taxation and the Stationarity of State Tax Rates," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 515-531, July.
    14. Blomberg, S. Brock, 2000. "Modeling political change with a regime-switching model," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 739-762, November.
    15. Andres Velasco, 1997. "Debts and Deficits with Fragmented Fiscal Policymaking," NBER Working Papers 6286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Juan Carlos Echeverry & Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubín, 2005. "Budget Inflexibility," Documentos CEDE 002070, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    17. Juan Carlos Echeverry & Leopoldo Fergusson & Pablo Querubin, 2004. "La Batalla Política Por El Presupuesto De La Nación: Inflexibilidades O Supervivencia Fiscal," Documentos CEDE 002944, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    18. Maria Cornachione Kula, 2004. "U.S. States, the Medicaid Program, and Tax Smoothing," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 490-511, January.
    19. Ashworth, John & Geys, Benny & Heyndels, Bruno, 2006. "Determinants of tax innovation: The case of environmental taxes in Flemish municipalities," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 223-247, March.
    20. Velasco, Andres, 2000. "Debts and deficits with fragmented fiscal policymaking," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 105-125, April.
    21. Kiley, Michael T., 1998. "Predicting Tax Rate Changes: Insights from the Permanent Income Hypothesis," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 153-167, January.
    22. Sleet, Christopher & Yeltekin, Sevin, 2006. "Optimal taxation with endogenously incomplete debt markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 127(1), pages 36-73, March.
    23. Kevin J. Lansing, 1993. "Dynamic optimal fiscal and monetary policy in a business cycle model with income redistribution," Working Papers (Old Series) 9308, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, revised 1993.
    24. Strazicich, Mark C., 1997. "Does Tax Smoothing Differ by the Level of Government? Time Series Evidence from Canada and the United States," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 305-326, April.
    25. Scott, Andrew, 2007. "Optimal taxation and OECD labor taxes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 925-944, April.

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