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Alternatives for Raising Living Standards


  • William Scarth


Given the fundamental goal of raising living standards in the longer term, much attention is paid to policies that can be expected to increase national saving. With respect to private saving, the mechanism is tax reform – a lower tax on interest income. The basic problem with this approach is that, for a given size of government, some other tax or transfer must be adjusted to finance the interest-tax cut. This fact may make it difficult to ensure that those with only labour income will share in the spoils. An alternative is to concentrate on public saving. Ultimately, deficit reduction makes possible lower taxes and/or higher transfer payments across the board. This reasoning suggests that debt reduction may be the more equitable government initiative. But there are other options such as investing in human capital and altering the population growth rate through immigration policy. The latter option is pursued in this paper. According to the standard neoclassical growth model, a lower population growth rate raises steady-state living standards, but things are more complicated in an optimization-based overlapping-generations context. This paper extends Blanchard’s constantplanning- horizon model of disjoint agents to allow for retirement, a subset of the population that remains liquidity constrained, and various taxes and transfers – in a small open-economy setting. Tax reform, debt reduction and population growth policies are compared in an internally consistent manner. For each policy, both the immediate and steady-state effects are derived, and the present value of the entire time path for consumption between these two end-points is also analyzed (for all three policy initiatives). A calibrated version of the model is used to identify policy combinations that can deliver long-term gain without short-term pain, and without problems for the hand-to-mouth subset of the population.

Suggested Citation

  • William Scarth, 1999. "Alternatives for Raising Living Standards," Department of Economics Working Papers 1999-08, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:deptwp:1999-08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tiff Macklem & David Rose & Robert Tetlow, "undated". "GOVERNMENT DEBT AND DEFICITS IN CANADA: A Macro Simulation Analysis," Staff Working Papers 95-4, Bank of Canada.
    2. Diamond, Peter A., 1980. "An alternative to steady-state comparisons," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 7-9.
    3. Søren Nielsen, 1994. "Social security and foreign indebtedness in a small open economy," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 47-63, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ambler, Steve, 1999. "Les modèles à agent représentatif et la politique de taxation optimale," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 75(4), pages 539-557, décembre.

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