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The Political Economy of Unsustainable Fiscal Deficits

  • Roberto Pasten
  • James P. Cover

This paper uses an intertemporal model of public finances to show that political instability can cause taxes to be tilted to the future, resulting in a fiscal deficit that is suboptimal and only weakly sustainable (in the sense of Quintos). This occurs because political instability gives the government an incentive to implement a myopic fiscal policy in order to increase its chances of remaining in office. The government achieves this by delaying taxes (or advancing spending) in order to buy political support, which in turn causes an upward trend in the deficit process and a financial crisis. Using annual data for Chile for the 1833-1999 period, we present statistical test results that support the model.

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File URL: http://www.economia.puc.cl/docs/136pasta.pdf
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Article provided by Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. in its journal Cuadernos de Economía-Latin American Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
Issue (Month): 136 ()
Pages: 169-189

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Handle: RePEc:ioe:cuadec:v:47:y:2010:i:136:p:169-189
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  1. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  2. Pastén, Roberto & Cover, James P., 2015. "Tax tilting and politics: Some theory and evidence for Latin America," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 208-218.
  3. Trehan, Bharat & Walsh, Carl E, 1991. "Testing Intertemporal Budget Constraints: Theory and Applications to U.S. Federal Budget and Current Account Deficits," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(2), pages 206-23, May.
  4. Hamilton, James D & Flavin, Marjorie A, 1986. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for EmpiricalTesting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 808-19, September.
  5. Zivot, Eric & Andrews, Donald W K, 2002. "Further Evidence on the Great Crash, the Oil-Price Shock, and the Unit-Root Hypothesis," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 25-44, January.
  6. Johansen, Soren, 1991. "Estimation and Hypothesis Testing of Cointegration Vectors in Gaussian Vector Autoregressive Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1551-80, November.
  7. José Jofre & Rolf Lüders & Gert Wagner, . "Economía Chilena 1810-1995. Cuentas Fiscales," Documentos de Trabajo 188, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  8. Allan w. Gregory & Bruce E. Hansen, 1992. "residual-Based Tests for Cointegration in Models with Regime Shifts," Working Papers 862, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  9. Bharat Trehan & Carl E. Walsh, 1987. "Common trends, the government's budget constraint, and revenue smoothing," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 87-11, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  10. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
  11. Quintos, Carmela E, 1995. "Sustainability of the Deficit Process with Structural Shifts," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(4), pages 409-17, October.
  12. Cerda, Rodrigo & Vergara, Rodrigo, 2008. "Government Subsidies and Presidential Election Outcomes: Evidence for a Developing Country," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 2470-2488, November.
  13. Huang, Chao-Hsi & Lin, Kenneth S., 1993. "Deficits, government expenditures, and tax smoothing in the United States: 1929-1988," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 317-339, June.
  14. Panzer, John & Paredes, Ricardo D, 1991. " The Role of Economic Issues in Elections: The Case of the 1988 Chilean Presidential Referendum," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 71(1-2), pages 51-59, August.
  15. Chang, Roberto, 2007. "Financial crises and political crises," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 2409-2420, November.
  16. Bohn, Henning, 2007. "Are stationarity and cointegration restrictions really necessary for the intertemporal budget constraint?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 1837-1847, October.
  17. Rodrigo Cerda & Rodrigo Vergara, 2007. "Business cycle and political election outcomes: Evidence from the Chilean democracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 132(1), pages 125-136, July.
  18. Ghosh, Atish R, 1995. "Intertemporal Tax-Smoothing and the Government Budget Surplus: Canada and the United States," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 1033-45, November.
  19. Gonzalez, Maria de los Angeles, 2002. "Do Changes in Democracy Affect the Political Budget Cycle? Evidence from Mexico," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 204-24, June.
  20. R. Pasten & J. P. Cover, 2011. "Does the Chilean government smooth taxes? A tax-smoothing model with revenue collection from a natural resource," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(5), pages 421-425.
  21. Olekalns, Nilss, 1997. "Australian Evidence on Tax Smoothing and the Optimal Budget Surplus," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 73(222), pages 248-57, September.
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