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Political Intervention in Debt Contracts

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  • Patrick Bolton
  • Howard Rosenthal

Abstract

This paper develops a dynamic general equilibrium model of an agricultural economy in which poor farmers borrow from rich farmers. Because output is stochastic (we allow for idiosyncratic and aggregate shocks), there may be default ex post. We compare equilibria with and without political intervention. Intervention takes the form of a moratorium and is decided by voting. When bad economic shocks are highly likely, state-contingent debt moratoria always improve ex post efficiency and may also improve ex ante efficiency. Moreover, the threat of moratoria enhances efficiency. When adverse macro shocks are unlikely, state-contingent moratoria always improve ex ante welfare by completing incomplete debt contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Bolton & Howard Rosenthal, 2002. "Political Intervention in Debt Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1103-1134, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:110:y:2002:i:5:p:1103-1134
    DOI: 10.1086/341867
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bolton, Patrick & Scharfstein, David S, 1990. "A Theory of Predation Based on Agency Problems in Financial Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 93-106, March.
    2. Ian Domowitz & Elie Tamer, "undated". "Two Hundred Years of Bankruptcy: A Tale of Legislation and Economic Fluctuations," IPR working papers 97-25, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
    3. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1994. "A Theory of Debt Based on the Inalienability of Human Capital," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 841-879.
    4. Alston, Lee J., 1983. "Farm Foreclosures in the United States During the Interwar Period," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(4), pages 885-903, December.
    5. Epple, Dennis & Spatt, Chester, 1986. "State restrictions on local debt : Their role in preventing default," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 199-221, March.
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