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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.

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Paper provided by Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE) in its series Documents de Travail de l'OFCE with number 2007-22.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fce:doctra:0722
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  1. Francesco Caselli, 1998. "Fiscal Discipline and the Cost of Public Debt Service: Some Estimates for OECD Countries," IMF Working Papers 98/55, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Roel Beetsma & Xavier Debrun & Frank Klaassen, 2001. "Is Fiscal Policy Coordination in EMU Desirable?," CESifo Working Paper Series 599, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Jerome Creel & Paola Monperrus-Veroni & Francesco Saraceno, 2007. "Has the Golden Rule of Public Finance Made a Difference in the UK ?," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2007-13, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  4. 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.
  5. Buti, M. & Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Franco, D., 2005. "The Stability pact Pains : A Forward-Looking Assessment of the Reform Debate," Discussion Paper 2005-101, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  6. 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.
  7. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1990. "Can Severe Fiscal Contractions Be Expansionary? Tales of two Small Euopean Countries," Working Papers 89, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  8. Steven R. Cunningham & Jon Vilasuso, 1995. "Is Keynesian Demand Management Policy Still Viable?," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 17(2), pages 187-210, January.
  9. Alberto Alesina & Silvia Ardagna & Roberto Perotti & Fabio Schiantarelli, 2000. "Fiscal Policy, Profits, and Investment," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 504, Boston College Department of Economics.
  10. 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.
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  12. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  13. Bernoth, Kerstin & von Hagen, Jürgen & Schuknecht, Ludger, 2004. "Sovereign risk premia in the European government bond market," ZEI Working Papers B 26-2003, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  14. Allsopp, Christopher & Davies, Gareth & Vines, David, 1995. "Regional Macroeconomic Policy, Fiscal Federalism, and European Integration," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 126-44, Summer.
  15. 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.
  16. Marco Catenaro & Patrizio Tirelli, 2000. "Reconsidering The Pros and Cons of Fiscal Policy Co-ordination in a Monetary Union: Should We Set Public Expenditure Targets ?," School of Economics Discussion Papers 0002, School of Economics, University of Surrey.
  17. Antonio Fatás & Ilian Mihov, 2003. "The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1419-1447.
  18. Bernoth, Kerstin & Schuknecht, Ludger & von Hagen, Jürgen, 2004. "Sovereign Risk Premia in the European Bond Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 4465, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Thomas Laubach, 2009. "New Evidence on the Interest Rate Effects of Budget Deficits and Debt," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 858-885, 06.
  20. Matthew B. Canzoneri & Robert E. Cumby & Behzad T. Diba, 2002. "Should the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve be concerned about fiscal policy?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 333-389.
  21. Ardagna, Silvia & Caselli, Francesco & Lane, Timothy, 2004. "Fiscal discipline and the cost of public dept service: some estiames for OECD countries," Working Paper Series 0411, European Central Bank.
  22. Yash P. Mehra, 1992. "Deficits and long-term interest rates: an empirical note," Working Paper 92-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  23. 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.
  24. Stuart Landon & Constance E. Smith, 2000. "Government debt spillovers and creditworthiness in a federation," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 33(3), pages 634-661, August.
  25. Willem H. Buiter & Clemens Grafe, 2004. "Patching up the Pact," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 12(1), pages 67-102, 03.
  26. Roberto Perotti, 1999. "Fiscal Policy in Good Times and Bad," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1399-1436.
  27. Detken, Carsten & Gaspar, Vítor & Winkler, Bernhard, 2004. "On prosperity and posterity: the need for fiscal discipline in a monetary union," Working Paper Series 0420, European Central Bank.
  28. Ludger Schuknecht, 2005. "Stability and Growth Pact: issues and lessons from political economy," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 65-89, 06.
  29. Brociner, Andrew & Levine, Paul L, 1992. "Fiscal Policy Coordination and EMU: A Dynamic Game Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 639, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  30. 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.
  31. Caporale, Guglielmo Maria & Williams, Geoffrey, 2002. "Long-term nominal interest rates and domestic fundamentals," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 119-130.
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