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A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • Guido Tabellini

Abstract

This paper considers an economy in which policymakers with different preferences alternate in office as a result of elections. Government debt is used strategically by each policymaker to influence the choices of his successors. If different policymakers disagree about the desired composition of government spending between two public goods, the economy exhibits a deficits bias; that is, debt accumulation is higher than it would be with a social planner. The equilibrium level of debt is larger the larger is the degree of polarization between alternating governments and the less likely it is that the current government will be re-elected.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 403-414.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:57:y:1990:i:3:p:403-414.
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    1. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 2006. "The Power to Tax," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521027922, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1986. "Principles of fiscal and monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 117-134, January.
    4. 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 914-927, October.
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