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A Theory of Social Custom of Which Soft Growth May Be One Consequence. Tales of the European Stability Pact

This paper reviews the arguments in favour and against the Stability and Growth Pact signed by the countries of the Euro area. We find the theoretical debate to be inconclusive, as both externality and credibility arguments can be reversed to yield opposite, and equally plausible conclusions. We therefore suggest the view that the stability pact is a social norm, and that adherence to that norm responds in fact to the need to preserve reputation in front of the other members of the European Union. Using this extreme but not implausible hypothesis, we build a simple model similar in spirit to Akerlof’s (1980) seminal paper on social norms, and we show that reputational issues may cause the emergence of a stable and inferior equilibrium. We further show that, when with the enlargement a number of countries anxious to prove their ‘soundness’ will join the Union, the problems posed by the pact/social norm are likely to increase.

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Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2002-07.

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Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0207
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  1. Etro, Federico & Ageloni, Ignazio & Alesina, Alberto, 2005. "International Unions," Scholarly Articles 4553008, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Artis, Michael J & Winkler, Bernhard, 1997. "The Stability Pact: Safeguarding the Credibility of the European Central Bank," CEPR Discussion Papers 1688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1996. "Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries: Composition and Macroeconomic Effects," IMF Working Papers 96/70, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1995. "Non-Keynesian Effects of Fiscal Policy Changes: International Evidence and the Swedish Experience," NBER Working Papers 5332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Levine, Paul & Brociner, Andrew, 1994. "Fiscal policy coordination and EMU : A dynamic game approach," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(3-4), pages 699-729.
  6. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1990. "Can Severe Fiscal Contractions Be Expansionary? Tales of Two Small European Countries," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1990, Volume 5, pages 75-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Beetsma, Roel & Debrun, Xavier & Klaassen, Franc, 2001. "Is Fiscal Policy Coordination in EMU Desirable?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3035, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Dixon, Huw David & Santoni, Michele, 1997. "Fiscal Policy Coordination with Demand Spillovers and Unionised Labour Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 403-17, March.
  9. Marco Catenaro & Patrizio Tirelli, 1999. "Reconsidering The Pros and Cons of Fiscal Policy Coordination in a Monetary Union: Should We Set Public Expenditure Targets?," Working Papers 30, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2000.
  10. Roberto Perotti, 1999. "Fiscal Policy in Good Times and Bad," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1399-1436.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1997. "Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries: Composition and Macroeconomic Effects," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(2), pages 210-248, June.
  12. Andrew Hughes Hallett & Laura Piscitelli, 2002. "Does One Size Fit All? A currency union with asymmetric transmissions and a stability pact," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 71-96.
  13. Jensen, Henrik, 1996. "The advantage of international fiscal cooperation under alternative monetary regimes," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 485-504, November.
  14. Beetsma, Roel & Uhlig, Harald, 1999. "An Analysis of the Stability and Growth Pact," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 546-71, October.
  15. Marco Buti & Werner Roeger & Jan In't Veld, 2001. "Stabilizing Output and Inflation: Policy Conflicts and Co-operation under a Stability Pact," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(5), pages 801-828, December.
  16. Andersen, Torben M. & Sorensen, Jan Rose, 1995. "Unemployment and fiscal policy in an economic and monetary union," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 27-43, March.
  17. Barry Eichengreen & Charles Wyplosz, 1998. "The Stability Pact: more than a minor nuisance?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 13(26), pages 65-113, 04.
  18. George A. Akerlof, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of which Unemployment may be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-775.
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