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Government size and output volatility: should we forsake automatic stabilization?

  • Xavier Debrun
  • Jean Pisani-Ferry
  • André Sapir

Prior to the launch of the euro, academics and policymakers were concerned that the loss of the monetary policy instrument would deprive participating countries of a vital tool to respond to country-specific economic shocks. This concern was rooted in the generally accepted proposition that market-based adjustment channels-i.e. labour mobility and capital flows-tended to be weaker among euro area countries than among regions of existing monetary unions such as the United States. Automatic stabilizers had long been regarded as playing a key role in macroeconomic stabilization. In particular, they were generally considered as having contributed significantly to the decrease of output volatility witnessed in Europe and in the United States after World War II, when the size of governments increased substantially on both sides of the Atlantic. Hence it was hoped that improved national fiscal policy could partly make up for the loss of monetary policy in stabilizing national macroeconomic conditions. The aim of the paper is to discuss this issue in the light of recent experience.

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Paper provided by Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission in its series European Economy - Economic Papers with number 316.

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Length: 72 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:euf:ecopap:0316
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  1. Marco Buti & Carlos Martinez-Mongay & Khalid Sekkat & Paul van den Noord, 2003. "Automatic Fiscal Stabilisers in EMU: A Conflict between Efficiency and Stabilisation?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 49(1), pages 123-140.
  2. Otrok, Christopher, 2001. "On measuring the welfare cost of business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 61-92, February.
  3. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1998. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Staff Reports 41, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. 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.
  5. Galí, Jordi & Perotti, Roberto, 2003. "Fiscal Policy and Monetary Integration in Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 3933, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. Tanzi,Vito & Schuknecht,Ludger, 2000. "Public Spending in the 20th Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521664103.
  8. repec:hrv:faseco:3451296 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Barro, R.J., 1988. "Government Spending In A Simple Model Of Endogenous Growth," RCER Working Papers 130, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  10. Gali, Jordi, 1994. "Government size and macroeconomic stability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 117-132, January.
  11. Garey Ramey & Valerie A. Ramey, 1994. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link Between Volatility and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4959, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Christina D. Romer, 1999. "Changes in Business Cycles: Evidence and Explanations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 23-44, Spring.
  13. Olivier Blanchard & John Simon, 2001. "The Long and Large Decline in U.S. Output Volatility," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 135-174.
  14. Afonso, António & Ebert, Werner & Schuknecht, Ludger & Thöne, Michael, 2005. "Quality of public finances and growth," Working Paper Series 0438, European Central Bank.
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