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The Optimal Use of Government Purchases for Macroeconomic Stabilization

Listed author(s):
  • Pascal Michaillat

    ()

    (Economics Department London School of Economics (LSE)
    Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM))

  • Emmanuel Saez

    ()

    (Department of Economics University of California-Berkeley)

This paper extends Samuelson’s theory of optimal government purchases by considering the contribution of government purchases to macroeconomic stabilization. We consider a matching model in which unemployment can be too high or too low. We derive a sufficient-statistics formula for optimal government purchases. Our formula is the Samuelson formula plus a correction term proportional to the government-purchases multiplier and the gap between actual and efficient unemployment rate. Optimal government purchases are above the Samuelson level when the correction term is positive—for instance, when the multiplier is positive and unemployment is inefficiently high. Our formula indicates that US government purchases, which are mildly countercyclical, are optimal under a small multiplier of 0.03. If the multiplier is larger, US government purchases are not countercyclical enough. Our formula implies significant increases in government purchases during slumps. For instance, with a multiplier of 0.5 and other statistics calibrated to the US economy, when the unemployment rate rises from the US average of 5.9% to 9%, the optimal government purchases-output ratio increases from 16.6% to 19.8%. However, the optimal ratio increases less for multipliers above 0.5 because with higher multipliers, the unemployment gap can be filled with fewer government purchases. For instance, with a multiplier of 2, the optimal ratio only increases from 16.6% to 17.6%.

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File URL: http://www.centreformacroeconomics.ac.uk/Discussion-Papers/2015/CFMDP2015-15-Paper.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM) in its series Discussion Papers with number 1515.

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Length: 58 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2015
Handle: RePEc:cfm:wpaper:1515
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.centreformacroeconomics.ac.uk/

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  1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  2. Pascal Michaillat & Emmanuel Saez, 2015. "Aggregate Demand, Idle Time, and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 507-569.
  3. Alan J. Auerbach & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2012. "Measuring the Output Responses to Fiscal Policy," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 1-27, May.
  4. Robert E. Hall, 2009. "By How Much Does GDP Rise If the Government Buys More Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 183-249.
  5. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2010. "The New Dynamic Public Finance," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9222, March.
  6. Robert J. Barro & Charles J. Redlick, 2011. "Macroeconomic Effects From Government Purchases and Taxes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 51-102.
  7. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 2002. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1329-1368.
  8. John B. Taylor, 2011. "An Empirical Analysis of the Revival of Fiscal Activism in the 2000s," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(3), pages 686-702, September.
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