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Time Consistent Public Expenditures

  • Klein, Paul
  • Krusell, Per
  • Ríos-Rull, José-Víctor

How should aggregate public expenditures be traded off against their financing costs? We incorporate public expenditures into a standard neoclassical growth setup with model policy choice as made by a government choosing tax rates and spending so that the resulting competitive equilibrium allocation maximizes consumer welfare. An additional key restriction that the government faces in our model is that it cannot commit to future policy. This restriction binds: current income taxes influence past savings decisions as well as past work decisions, and these effects are ignored by governments without access to commitment. We solve for equilibria where ‘reputational’ mechanisms are not operative: we characterize Markov-perfect equilibria of the dynamic game between successive governments. We characterize equilibria in terms of an intertemporal first-order condition (a ‘generalized Euler equation’, GEE) for the government and we use this condition both to gain insight into the nature of the equilibrium and as a basis for computation. The GEE reveals how the government optimally trades off tax wedges over time. For a calibrated economy, we find that when the tax base available to the government is capital income – an inelastic source of funds at any moment in time – the government still refrains from taxing at confiscatory rates. As a result, the economy is far from the mix of public and private goods that would be optimal in a static context; in return, steady-state savings are less distorted.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4582.

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Date of creation: Aug 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4582
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  1. V. V. Chari & Patrick J Kehoe, 1998. "Sustainable Plans," Levine's Working Paper Archive 600, David K. Levine.
  2. Ramon Marimon & Javier Díaz-Giménez & Giorgia Giovannetti & Pedro Teles, 2007. "Nominal Debt as a Burden on Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 13677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Marco Bassetto & Thomas Sargent, 2005. "Politics and Efficiency of Separating Capital and Ordinary Government Budgets," NBER Working Papers 11030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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.
  5. John Hassler & José V. Rodríguez Mora & Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2001. "The survival of the welfare state," Economics Working Papers 603, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  6. Per Krusell & Anthony A Smith, Jr., 2001. "Consumption Savings Decisions with Quasi-Geometric Discounting," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 625018000000000251,
  7. John Hassler & Per Krusell & Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2007. "On the Optimal Timing of Capital Taxes," IEW - Working Papers 343, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  8. Paul Klein & JosÈ-VÌctor RÌos-Rull, 2003. "Time-consistent optimal fiscal policy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(4), pages 1217-1245, November.
  9. Krusell, Per & Kuruscu, Burhanettin & Smith, Anthony Jr., 2002. "Equilibrium Welfare and Government Policy with Quasi-geometric Discounting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 42-72, July.
  10. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  11. Per Krusell & Fernando M. Martin & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2006. "Time Consistent Debt," 2006 Meeting Papers 210, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Cohen, Daniel & Michel, Philippe, 1988. "How Should Control Theory Be Used to Calculate a Time-Consistent Government Policy?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 263-74, April.
  13. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  14. Marina Azzimonti-Renzo & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Jorge Soares, 2003. "Optimal public investment with and without government commitment," Working Paper 03-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  15. David R. Stockman, 2001. "Balanced-Budget Rules: Welfare Loss and Optimal Policies," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(2), pages 438-459, July.
  16. Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Per Krusell, 1999. "On the Size of U.S. Government: Political Economy in the Neoclassical Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1156-1181, December.
  17. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  18. Krusell, Per & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1997. "Politico-economic equilibrium and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 243-272, January.
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