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Fiscal Discipline as a Social Norm: The European Stability Pact



This paper reviews the arguments for 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 used to yield opposite, and equally plausible conclusions. We also argue that evidence in favour of a Pact-like rule is scant. We therefore suggest the view that the Stability Pact is a public social norm, and that a country’s adherence to that norm is in fact a response to the need to preserve reputation among 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 reputation issues may cause the emergence of a stable but inferior equilibrium. We further show that after the enlargement, with a number of countries anxious to prove their ‘soundness’ joining the club, the problems posed by the pact/social norm are likely to increase.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Francesco Saraceno, 2007. "Fiscal Discipline as a Social Norm: The European Stability Pact," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2007-22, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  • Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0722

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jérôme Creel & Paul Hubert & Francesco Saraceno, 2014. "French Public Finances at Risk?," Panoeconomicus, Savez ekonomista Vojvodine, Novi Sad, Serbia, vol. 61(1), pages 1-19, Februar.
    2. Jérôme Creel & Paul Hubert & Francesco Saraceno, 2013. "Assessing future sustainability of french public finances," Sciences Po publications 2013-11, Sciences Po.
    3. Francesco Saraceno, 2016. "When Keynes goes to Brussels : a New Fiscal Rule for the EMU ?," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2016-32, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    4. Frédéric Marty, 2007. "Partenariats public-privé, règles de discipline budgétaire, comptabilité patrimoniale et stratégies de hors bilan," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2007-29, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    5. repec:ilo:ilowps:488129 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Saraceno, Francesco., 2015. "Challenges for the ECB in times of deflation," ILO Working Papers 994881293402676, International Labour Organization.
    7. Shirai, Sayuri, 2009. "Euの通貨統合と金融・財政政策の規律
      [EU Currency Union and Disciplines for Financial・Moneatry Policies]
      ," MPRA Paper 15713, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Francesco Saraceno, 2016. "The ECB: a reluctant leading character of the EMU play," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 33(2), pages 129-151, August.
    9. Baldi, Guido, 2013. "Fiscal Policy Institutions and Economic Transition in North Africa," MPRA Paper 48677, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Stability Pact; Fiscal Rules; Fiscal Policy; 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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