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

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Francesco Saraceno, 2002. "A Theory of Social Custom of Which Soft Growth May Be One Consequence. Tales of the European Stability Pact," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2002-07, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  • Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0207
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    1. Roel M. W. J. Beetsma & Xavier Debrun & Franc Klaassen, 2001. "Is Fiscal Policy Coordination in EMU Desirable?," IMF Working Papers 01/178, International Monetary Fund.
    2. 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.
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    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Roberto Perotti, 1999. "Fiscal Policy in Good Times and Bad," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1399-1436.
    8. 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.
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    10. 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.
    11. Michael Artis & Bernhard Winkler, 1998. "The Stability Pact: Safeguarding the Credibility of the European Central Bank," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 163(1), pages 87-98, January.
    12. 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.
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    14. 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 403-417, March.
    15. Barry Eichengreen & Charles Wyplosz, 1998. "The Stability Pact: more than a minor nuisance?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 13(26), pages 65-113, April.
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    17. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Catherine Mathieu & Henri Sterdyniak, 2003. "Réformer le pacte de stabilité : l'état du débat," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 84(1), pages 145-179.
    2. Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 2007. "Le rôle des institutions et des normes sociales dans la détermination des politiques économiques," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(3), pages 109-124.
    3. Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 2005. "Politiche macroeconomiche e istituzioni : lezione 'Angelo Costa'," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/4601, Sciences Po.
    4. Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Francesco Saraceno, 2004. "The Brussels-Frankfurt-Washington Consensus. Old and New Tradeoffs in Economics," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2004-02, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    5. MATHIEU Catherine & STERDYNIAK Henri, "undated". "Reforming the Stability and Growth Pact: Breaking the Ice?," EcoMod2003 330700097, EcoMod.
    6. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/1933 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Sébastien Pommier, 2008. "The Use of Fiscal Policy in EMU: First Appraisal and Future Prospects," EKONOMIAZ. Revista vasca de Economía, Gobierno Vasco / Eusko Jaurlaritza / Basque Government, vol. 69(03), pages 28-45.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Stability Pact; Stabilization Policies; Social Norms; Reputation; Enlargement;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy

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