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Sustainability of Public Debt: Evidence from Pre-World War II Japan

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  • Masato Shizume

    () (Kobe University)

Abstract

"Japan defaulted on its public debts only once throughout its modern history, after World War II (WWII). How did Japan lose its ability to sustain its public debts? This paper explores the sustainability of public debts in Japan before and during WWII. First, this paper reviews the brief history of pre-WWII public finance in Japan with reference to some narrative evidence, data, and previous works. Second, this paper conducts three stages of econometric analyses. It tests Ricardian neutrality of public debt. It tests the dynamic efficiency of Japanese economy, and it conducts Bohn’s tests for the relationship between public debt and primary fiscal balance. The tests indicate that Japanese public debts were sustainable until 1931, and unsustainable in and after 1932. Third, this paper interprets the results of quantitative analyses with narrative modes of analysis. During the 1930s, Japan lost its fiscal discipline because of the military’s effective veto over budgetary processes and because of the absence of pressure for sound fiscal policy from international financial markets."

Suggested Citation

  • Masato Shizume, 2007. "Sustainability of Public Debt: Evidence from Pre-World War II Japan," Working Papers 7013, Economic History Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehs:wpaper:7013
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    File URL: http://www.rieb.kobe-u.ac.jp/academic/ra/dp/English/dp201.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Subrata Ghatak & José R. Sánchez‐Fung, 2007. "Is Fiscal Policy Sustainable in Developing Economies?," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 518-530, August.
    2. 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..
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    4. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Ricardian Equivalence: An Evaluation of Theory and Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1987, Volume 2, pages 263-316, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ihori, Toshihiro & Doi, Takero & Kondo, Hiroki, 2001. "Japanese fiscal reform: fiscal reconstruction and fiscal policy," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 351-370, December.
    6. Henning Bohn, 2005. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 1446, CESifo.
    7. Michael D. Bordo, 1995. "The Gold Standard as a `Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval'," NBER Working Papers 5340, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Eichengreen, Barry, 1996. "Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195101133.
    9. Barro, Robert J, 1986. " U.S. Deficits since World War I," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 195-122.
    10. Peter Temin, 1991. "Lessons from the Great Depression," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262700441, September.
    11. Bordo, Michael D. & Rockoff, Hugh, 1996. "The Gold Standard as a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approvalâ€," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 389-428, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East

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