IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cpr/ceprdp/2205.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Fallacy of the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level

Author

Listed:
  • Buiter, Willem H.

Abstract

It is not common for an entire scholarly literature to be based on a fallacy, that is, "on faulty reasoning; misleading or unsound argument". The 'fiscal theory of the price level', recently re-developed by Woodford, Cochrane, Sims and others, is an example of a fatally flawed research programme. The source of the fallacy is an economic misspecification. The proponents of the fiscal theory of the price level do not accept the fundamental proposition that the government's intertemporal budget constraint is a constraint on the government's instruments that must be satisfied for all admissible values of the economy-wide endogenous variables. Instead they require it to be satisfied only in equilibrium. This economic misspecification has implications for the mathematical or logical properties of the equilibria supported by models purporting to demonstrate the properties of the fiscal approach. These include: overdetermined (internally inconsistent) equilibria; anomalies like the apparent ability to price things that do not exist; the need for arbitrary restrictions on the exogenous and predetermined variables in the government's budget constraint; and anomalous behaviour of the 'equilibrium' price sequences, including behaviour that will ultimately violate physical resource constraints. The issue is of more than academic interest. Policy conclusions could be drawn from the fiscal theory of the price level that would be harmful if they influenced the actual behaviour of the fiscal and monetary authorities. The fiscal theory of the price level implies that a government could exogenously fix its real spending, revenue and seigniorage plans, and that the general price level would adjust the real value of its contractual nominal debt obligations so as to ensure government solvency. When reality dawns, the result could be painful fiscal tightening, government default or unplanned recourse to the inflation tax.

Suggested Citation

  • Buiter, Willem H., 1999. "The Fallacy of the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level," CEPR Discussion Papers 2205, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2205
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=2205
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at subscribers@cepr.org
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Michael Woodford, 1998. "Doing Without Money: Controlling Inflation in a Post-Monetary World," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 173-219, January.
    2. McCallum, Bennett T., 2001. "Indeterminacy, bubbles, and the fiscal theory of price level determination," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 19-30, February.
    3. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476.
    4. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
    5. Buiter, Willem H., 1998. "The Young Person's Guide to Neutrality, Price Level Indeterminacy, Interest Rate Pegs and Fiscal Theories of the Price Level," CEPR Discussion Papers 1799, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Thomas J. Sargent & Neil Wallace, 1984. "Some Unpleasant Monetarist Arithmetic," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Brian Griffiths & Geoffrey E. Wood (ed.), Monetarism in the United Kingdom, pages 15-41, Palgrave Macmillan.
    7. Woodford, Michael, 1995. "Price-level determinacy without control of a monetary aggregate," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 1-46, December.
    8. Woodford, Michael, 1994. "Monetary Policy and Price Level Determinacy in a Cash-in-Advance Economy," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 4(3), pages 345-380.
    9. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1982. "Interest rates and currency prices in a two-country world," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 335-359.
    10. Sims, Christopher A, 1994. "A Simple Model for Study of the Determination of the Price Level and the Interaction of Monetary and Fiscal Policy," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 4(3), pages 381-399.
    11. Obstfeld, Maurice & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1983. "Speculative Hyperinflations in Maximizing Models: Can We Rule Them Out?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 675-687, August.
    12. Willem H. Buiter & Kenneth M. Kletzer, 1998. "Uses and Limitations of Public Debt," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Steven Brakman & Hans Ees & Simon K. Kuipers (ed.), Market Behaviour and Macroeconomic Modelling, chapter 11, pages 275-307, Palgrave Macmillan.
    13. Dupor, Bill, 2000. "Exchange rates and the fiscal theory of the price level," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 613-630, June.
    14. Helpman, Elhanan, 1981. "An Exploration in the Theory of Exchange-Rate Regimes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 865-890, October.
    15. Cochrane, John H, 2001. "Long-Term Debt and Optimal Policy in the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 69-116, January.
    16. Michael Woodford, 1998. "Control of the Public Debt: A Requirement for Price Stability?," International Economic Association Series, in: Guillermo Calvo & Mervyn King (ed.), The Debt Burden and its Consequences for Monetary Policy, chapter 5, pages 117-158, Palgrave Macmillan.
    17. Matthew B. Canzoneri & Robert E. Cumby & Behzad T. Diba, 2001. "Is the Price Level Determined by the Needs of Fiscal Solvency?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1221-1238, December.
    18. Obstfeld, Maurice & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1986. "Ruling out divergent speculative bubbles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 349-362, May.
    19. Buiter, Willem H, 1987. "A Fiscal Theory of Hyperdeflations? Some Surprising Monetarist Arithmetic," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(1), pages 111-118, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Willem Buiter, 2000. "The Fallacy of the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level, Again," CESifo Working Paper Series 303, CESifo.
    2. Willem H. Buiter, 2002. "The Fiscal Theory Of The Price Level: A Critique," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 459-480, July.
    3. António Afonso, 2002. "Disturbing the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level: Can it Fit the EU-15," Working Papers Department of Economics 2002/01, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    4. Bajo-Rubio, Oscar & Díaz-Roldán, Carmen & Esteve, Vicente, 2009. "Deficit sustainability and inflation in EMU: An analysis from the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 525-539, December.
    5. Bennett T. Mccallum, 2003. "Is The Fiscal Theory of the Price Level Learnable?," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 50(5), pages 634-649, November.
    6. Leeper, E.M. & Leith, C., 2016. "Understanding Inflation as a Joint Monetary–Fiscal Phenomenon," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 2305-2415, Elsevier.
    7. Canzoneri, Matthew & Cumby, Robert & Diba, Behzad, 2010. "The Interaction Between Monetary and Fiscal Policy," Handbook of Monetary Economics, in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 17, pages 935-999, Elsevier.
    8. Chadha, J.S. & Nolan, C., 2003. "On the Interaction of Monetary and Fiscal Policy," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0303, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    9. Lawrence J. Christiano & Terry J. Fitzgerald, 2000. "Understanding the fiscal theory of the price level," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q II, pages 2-38.
    10. Óscar J. Arce, 2005. "Reflections on fiscalist divergent price-paths," Working Papers 0533, Banco de España.
    11. Marco Bassetto, 2002. "A Game-Theoretic View of the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2167-2195, November.
    12. Willem H. Buiter, 2003. "Helicopter Money: Irredeemable Fiat Money and the Liquidity Trap," NBER Working Papers 10163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Bennett T. McCallum, 1999. "Theoretical Issues Pertaining to Monetary Unions," NBER Working Papers 7393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Buiter, Willem H. & Sibert, Anne C., 2018. "The fallacy of the fiscal theory of the price level: One last time," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 12, pages 1-56.
    15. Bajo-Rubio, Oscar & Díaz-Roldán, Carmen & Esteve, Vicente, 2014. "Deficit sustainability, and monetary versus fiscal dominance: The case of Spain, 1850–2000," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 924-937.
    16. Creel, Jerome & Bihan, Herve Le, 2006. "Using structural balance data to test the fiscal theory of the price level: Some international evidence," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 338-360, June.
    17. Daniel, Betty C. & Shiamptanis, Christos, 2012. "Fiscal risk in a monetary union," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 1289-1309.
    18. Cochrane, John H., 2005. "Money as stock," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 501-528, April.
    19. John H. Cochrane, 2011. "Determinacy and Identification with Taylor Rules," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(3), pages 565-615.
    20. Fan, Jingwen & Minford, Patrick & Ou, Zhirong, 2016. "The role of fiscal policy in Britain's Great Inflation," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 203-218.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Specialization; Trade; Transport Costs;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2205. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://www.cepr.org .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://www.cepr.org .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.