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Understanding the Emergence of Public Debt

Author

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  • Martin Fochmann
  • Abdolkarim Sadrieh
  • Joachim Weimann

Abstract

We use a controlled laboratory experiment with and without overlapping generations to study the emergence of public debt. Public debt is chosen by popular vote, pays for public goods, and is repaid with general taxes. With a single generation, public debt is accumulated prudently, never leading to over-indebtedness. With multiple generations, public debt is accumulated rapidly as soon as the burden of debt and the risk of over-indebtedness can be shifted to future generations. Debt ceiling mechanisms do not mitigate the debt problem. With overlapping generations, political debt cycles emerge, oscillating with the age of the majority of voters.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Fochmann & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Joachim Weimann, 2014. "Understanding the Emergence of Public Debt," CESifo Working Paper Series 4820, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4820
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp4820.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Alberto Alesina & Nouriel Roubini & Gerald D. Cohen, 1997. "Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262510944, January.
    4. 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.
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    6. Gordon, Roger H. & Varian, Hal R., 1988. "Intergenerational risk sharing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 185-202, November.
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    11. Fischer, Maria-Elisabeth & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim, 2004. "An intergenerational common pool resource experiment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 811-836, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Müller, Julia & Schwieren, Christiane & Spitzer, Florian, 2016. "What Drives Destruction? On the Malleability of Anti-Social Behavior," Department of Economics Working Paper Series 5343, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public debt and taxation; government spending; budget deficit; balanced budget; common pool resources;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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