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Debt Sustainability in Historical Perspective: The Role of Fiscal Repression

  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Hans-Joachim Voth

This article examines the debt history of two contenders for European hegemony: 16th-century Spain and 18th-century Britain. We analyze their fiscal behavior using measures of overborrowing and fiscal policy functions. Our results suggest that stringency was not key for Britain's success in avoiding default. Instead, fiscal repression allowed the United Kingdom to borrow at below-market rates, thereby outspending its continental rivals. (JEL: E4, F41, N23) (c) 2008 by the European Economic Association.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
Pages: 657-667

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:6:y:2008:i:2-3:p:657-667
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  1. Peter Temin & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2008. "Interest Rate Restrictions in a Natural Experiment: Loan Allocation and the Change in the Usury Laws in 1714," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(528), pages 743-758, 04.
  2. Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1984. "Why Was British Growth So Slow During the Industrial Revolution?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(03), pages 687-712, September.
  3. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2007. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Spain's Fiscal Position, 1560-1598," CEPR Discussion Papers 6611, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Peter Temin & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2004. "Credit Rationing and Crowding out during the Industrial Revolution: Evidence from Hoare's Bank, 1702-1862," Working Papers 211, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  5. Oya Celasun & Xavier Debrun & Jonathan D. Ostry, 2006. "Primary Surplus Behavior and Risks to Fiscal Sustainability in Emerging Market Countries: A "Fan-Chart" Approach," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 53(3), pages 3.
  6. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff & Miguel A. Savastano, 2003. "Debt Intolerance," NBER Working Papers 9908, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wyplosz, Charles, 1999. "Financial Restraints and Liberalization in Postwar Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 2253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Henning Bohn, 1998. "The Behavior of U. S. Public Debt and Deficits," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 949-963.
  9. Mauricio Drelichman & Joachim Voth, 2006. "The sustainable debts of Philip II: A reconstruction of Castile's fiscal position, 1566-1596," Economics Working Papers 1121, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2009.
  10. Robert J. Barro, 1986. "Government Spending, Interest Rates, Prices, and Budget Deficits in the United Kingdom, 1701-1918," NBER Working Papers 2005, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Sussman, Nathan & Yafeh, Yishay, 2006. "Institutional Reforms, Financial Development and Sovereign Debt: Britain 1690 1790," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 906-935, December.
  12. Michael D. Bordo & Eugene N. White, 1990. "British and French Finance During the Napoleonic Wars," NBER Working Papers 3517, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Bordo, Michael D. & White, Eugene N., 1991. "A Tale of Two Currencies: British and French Finance During the Napoleonic Wars," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 303-316, June.
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