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Nobel Lecture: United States Then, Europe Now

  • Thomas J. Sargent

Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government of the United States had limited power to tax. Therefore, large debts accumulated during the US War for Independence traded at deep discounts. That situation framed a US fiscal crisis in the 1780s. A political revolution--for that was what scuttling the Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution of the United States of America was--solved the fiscal crisis by transferring authority to levy tariffs from the states to the federal government. The Constitution and acts of the First Congress of the United States in August 1790 gave Congress authority to raise enough revenues to service a big government debt. In 1790, the Congress carried out a comprehensive bailout of state governments' debts, part of a grand bargain that made creditors of the states become advocates of ample federal taxes. That bailout created expectations about future federal bailouts that a costly episode in the early 1840s proved to be unwarranted.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/665415
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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/665415
Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 120 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 1 - 40

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/665415
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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  1. Lars Peter Hansen & Ravi Jagannathan, 1990. "Implications of security market data for models of dynamic economies," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 29, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Stephen Coate & Marco Battaglini, 2007. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation and Debt," 2007 Meeting Papers 573, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  4. Beatrix Paal, 2000. "Destabilizing effects of a successful stabilization: a forward-looking explanation of the second Hungarian hyperinflation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 15(3), pages 599-630.
  5. John Joseph Wallis, 2000. "American Government Finance in the Long Run: 1790 to 1990," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 61-82, Winter.
  6. V. V. Chari & Larry E. Jones, 1991. "A reconsideration of the problem of social cost: free riders and monopolists," Staff Report 142, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, September.
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