Measuring compliance with the Golden Rule
The golden rule of public finance is based upon the notion that intergenerational equity requires that the cost of public expenditures be spread over time in a manner that reflects the intertemporal distribution of the benefits generated by those expenditures. This is often translated into a rule that the budget be structurally balanced in accrual accounting terms. This article considers the form of accrual accounting that is most suited to the task of measuring the consistency of fiscal policy with the golden rule. It recommends a combination of the real capital maintenance approach (also known as ‘current purchasing power accounting’) and annuity depreciation. Such an approach differs from ‘current cost accounting’, which has dominated public sector models of accrual accounting in recent years. The meaning of balance-sheet measures is also considered, and it is concluded that the golden rule is more appropriately expressed as an accrual balanced budget requirement than as a requirement for the maintenance of constant net worth.
Volume (Year): 19 (1998)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
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