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Time-Consistent Public Policy


  • Paul Klein
  • Per Krusell
  • José-Víctor Ríos-Rull


In this paper we study how a benevolent government that cannot commit to future policy should trade off the costs and benefits of public expenditure. We characterize and solve for Markov-perfect equilibria of the dynamic game between successive governments. The characterization consists of an inter-temporal first-order condition (a "generalized Euler equation") for the government, and we use it both to gain insight into the nature of the equilibrium and as a basis for computations. For a calibrated economy, we find that when the only tax base available to the government is capital income—an inelastic source of funds at any point in time—the government still refrains from taxing at confiscatory rates. We also find that when the only tax base is labour income the Markov equilibrium features less public expenditure and lower tax rates than the Ramsey equilibrium. Copyright 2008, Wiley-Blackwell.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Klein & Per Krusell & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2008. "Time-Consistent Public Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 789-808.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:75:y:2008:i:3:p:789-808

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and Nonmonetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 366-380, March.
    3. Marco Casari, 2005. "On the Design of Peer Punishment Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 8(2), pages 107-115, June.
    4. Nikos Nikiforakis & Hans-Theo Normann, 2008. "A comparative statics analysis of punishment in public-good experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(4), pages 358-369, December.
    5. Casari, Marco & Luini, Luigi, 2005. "Group Cooperation Under Alternative Peer Punishment Technologies: An Experiment," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1176, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
    6. Stephan Kroll & Todd L. Cherry & Jason F. Shogren, 2007. "Voting, Punishment, And Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(3), pages 557-570, July.
    7. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2004. "Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-task Principal-Agent Model," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 453-474, October.
    8. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "The demand for punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 522-542, April.
    9. Casari, Marco & Luini, Luigi, 2006. "Peer Punishment in Teams: Emotional or Strategic Choice?," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1188, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
    10. Nikiforakis, Nikos, 2008. "Punishment and counter-punishment in public good games: Can we really govern ourselves," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 91-112, February.
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