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Fiscal Rules and Countercyclical Policy: Frank Ramsey Meets Gramm-Rudman-Hollings

  • Evan Tanner

Fiscal rules—legal restrictions on government borrowing, spending, or debt accumulation (like the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act in the United States)—have recently been adopted or considered in several countries, both industrial and developing. Previous literature stresses that such laws restrict countercyclical government borrowing, thus preventing intertemporal equalization of marginal deadweight losses of taxation—an idea associated with Frank Ramsey. However, such literature typically abstracts from persistent current deficits that are financed by future tax increases. Eliminating such deficits may substantially reduce tax rate variability—the very goal of countercyclical borrowing—even over a finite horizon. Thus, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings and Frank Ramsey are not necessarily enemies and they may even be good friends!

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 03/220.

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Length: 29
Date of creation: 01 Nov 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:03/220
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  1. David R. Stockman, 2004. "Default, Reputation and Balanced-Budget Rules," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(2), pages 382-405, April.
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  3. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
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  9. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1999. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 6891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. George Kopits & Steven A. Symansky, 1998. "Fiscal Policy Rules," IMF Occasional Papers 162, International Monetary Fund.
  11. Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe & Martin Uribe, 1995. "Balanced-budget rules, distortionary taxes, and aggregate instability," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 95-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Tamim Bayoumi & Barry Eichengreen, 1995. "Restraining Yourself: The Implications of Fiscal Rules for Economic Stabilization," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(1), pages 32-48, March.
  13. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
  14. 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.
  15. Ernesto Talvi & Carlos A. Vegh, 2000. "Tax Base Variability and Procyclical Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 7499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. David R. Stockman, 2001. "Balanced-Budget Rules: Welfare Loss and Optimal Policies," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(2), pages 438-459, July.
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