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The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion

  • Fatás, Antonio
  • Mihov, Ilian

This Paper studies how discretionary fiscal policy affects output volatility and the rate of economic growth. Using data on fifty-one countries we isolate five empirical regularities: (1) Governments that use often fiscal policy make their economies volatile; (2) The use of fiscal policy is explained to a large extent by the presence of political constraints and other political and institutional variables; (3) The volatility of output induced by discretionary fiscal policy lowers economic growth by 0.6 percentage points for every percentage point increase in volatility; (4) There is evidence that the increase in volatility is in part due to electoral cycles; nevertheless, we do find that political constraints restrain fiscal policy beyond their impact on the traditional election-year volatility; (5) Rules-based fiscal policy identified by the degree of automatic stabilizers in the economy helps to stabilize business cycles. The evidence in the Paper argues in favour of imposing institutional restrictions on governments as a way of reducing output volatility and increasing the rate of economic growth.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3277.

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Date of creation: Mar 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3277
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  1. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 997-1032, October.
  3. Ramey, Garey & Ramey, Valerie A, 1995. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link between Volatility and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1138-51, December.
  4. Beck, Thorsten & Clarke, George & Groff, Alberto & Keefer, Philip & Walsh, Patrick, 2000. "New tools and new tests in comparative political economy - the database of political institutions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2283, The World Bank.
  5. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-78, August.
  6. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3125517 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Political Institutions and Policy Outcomes: What are the Stylized Facts?," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 412, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  8. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Fatas, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "Government size and automatic stabilizers: international and intranational evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 3-28, October.
  11. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Jonas Fisher, 2000. "Assessing the Effects of Fiscal Shocks," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1499, Econometric Society.
  13. Torsten Persson, 2002. "Do Political Institutions Shape Economic Policy?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(3), pages 883-905, May.
  14. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Olivier Jean Blanchard, 1990. "Suggestions for a New Set of Fiscal Indicators," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 79, OECD Publishing.
  16. Barro, Robert J, 1996. " Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
  17. Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Consumption and Employment: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. W. J. Henisz, 2000. "The Institutional Environment for Economic Growth," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(1), pages 1-31, 03.
  19. Boozer, Michael A., 1997. "Econometric Analysis of Panel Data Badi H. Baltagi Wiley, 1995," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(05), pages 747-754, October.
  20. Nouriel Roubini & Jeffrey Sachs, 1989. "Government Spending and Budget Deficits in the Industrial Economies," NBER Working Papers 2919, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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