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The Limits of Political Compromise: Debt Ceilings and Political Turnover

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  • Alexandre B. Cunha
  • Emanuel Ornelas

Abstract

We study the desirability of limits on the public debt and of political turnover in an economy where incumbents have an incentive to set public expenditures above the socially optimal level due to rent-seeking motives. Parties alternate in office and cannot commit to future policies, but they can forge a political compromise where each party curbs excessive spending when in office if it expects future governments to do the same. In contrast to the received literature, we find that strict limits on government borrowing can exacerbate political economy distortions by making a political compromise unsustainable. This tends to happen when political turnover is limited. Conversely, a tight limit on the public debt fosters a compromise that yields the efficient outcome if political turnover is vigorous. Our analysis thus suggests that to sustain good economic policies, a society needs to restrict either the extent of political turnover or the ability of governments to issue debt, but not both.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexandre B. Cunha & Emanuel Ornelas, 2017. "The Limits of Political Compromise: Debt Ceilings and Political Turnover," CESifo Working Paper Series 6429, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6429
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Tetsuo Ono & Yuki Uchida, 2018. "Political Economy of Taxation, Debt Ceilings, and Growth," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 18-22, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    debt limits; political turnover; efficient policies; fiscal rules;

    JEL classification:

    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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