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Government Solvency, Ponzi Finance and the Redundancy and Usefulness of Public Debt

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  • Buiter, Willem H.
  • Kletzer, Kenneth

Abstract

We investigate how the ability of the government to depart from budget balance and issue debt expands the set of equilibria that can be supported using lump-sum tax-transfer instruments. We show how this depends on the restrictions that exist on the capacity to tax and make transfer payments, and what these restrictions imply for the government's ability to issue debt. Central to our analysis is the definition of solvency for an infinite-lived government in an infinite-lived economy with overlapping generations of finite-lived households. Our specification is derived from the non-negativity constraints on the capital stock and on private consumption by all generations. Under fairly tight restrictions on the government's tax-transfer menu, our solvency constraint implies the conventional solvency constraint. With unrestricted taxes and transfers Ponzi finance is always possible but `unessential': it does not expand the set of equilibria that can be supported. Ponzi finance can be `essential' when taxes and transfers are restricted. The paper establishes a number of results that demonstrate how the government's ability to issue debt allows restricted tax-transfer schemes to support all equilibria attainable using unrestricted taxes and transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • Buiter, Willem H. & Kletzer, Kenneth, 1992. "Government Solvency, Ponzi Finance and the Redundancy and Usefulness of Public Debt," CEPR Discussion Papers 680, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:680
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Buiter, Willem H., 1996. "Aspects of Fiscal Performance in some Transition Economies under Fund-supported Programs," CEPR Discussion Papers 1535, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Matthias Baumgarten & Henning Klodt, 2010. "Greece and Beyond: The Debt Mechanics of the Euro," Aussenwirtschaft, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science, Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economics Research, vol. 65(4), pages 365-377, December.
    3. Cuddington, John T., 1997. "Analyzing the sustainability of fiscal deficitsin developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1784, The World Bank.
    4. Shuanglin Lin, 1994. "Capital taxation and accumulation in a growing world economy with deficit finance," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 1(2), pages 127-146, October.
    5. Rainer Maurer, 2010. "Die Verschuldungskrise der Europäischen Währungsunion: fiskalische Disziplinlosigkeit oder Konstruktionsfehler?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 79(4), pages 85-102.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Government Solvency; Ponzi Finance; Public Debt; Tax Capacity;

    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
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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