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Optimal Time-Consistent Fiscal Policy with Uncertain Lifetimes

  • Guillermo A. Calvo
  • Maurice Obstfeld

This paper studies optimal fiscal policy in an economy where heterogeneous agents with uncertain lifetimes coexist. We show that some plausible social welfare functions lead to time-inconsistent optimal plans, and we suggest restrictions on social preferences that avoid the problem. The normative prescriptions of a time-consistent utilitarian planner generalize the 'two-part Golden Rule" suggested by Samuelson, and imply aggregate dynamics similar to those arisingin the Cass-Koopmans-Ramsey optimal growth framework. We characterize lump-sum transfer schemes that allow the optimal allocation to be decentralized as the competitive equilibrium of an economy with actuarially fair annuities. The lump-sum transfers that accomplish this decentralization are age dependent in general.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1593.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1593.

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Date of creation: Mar 1985
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Publication status: published as "Optimal Time-Consistent Fiscal Policy with Finite Lifetimes: Analysis and Extensions." From Economic Effectts of the Government Budget, edited by Elhanan Helpman, Assaf Razin, and Efraim Sadka, pp. 163-198. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1593
Note: EFG
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National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

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Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. David Cass, 1965. "Optimum Growth in an Aggregative Model of Capital Accumulation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(3), pages 233-240.
  2. Abba P. Lerner, 1959. "Consumption-Loan Interest and Money: Rejoinder," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67, pages 523.
  3. Abba P. Lerner, 1959. "Consumption-Loan Interest and Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67, pages 512.
  4. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
  5. E. S. Phelps & J. G. Riley, 1978. "Rawlsian Growth: Dynamic Programming of Capital and Wealth for Intergeneration "Maximin" Justice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(1), pages 103-120.
  6. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  7. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1978. "On the Time Consistency of Optimal Policy in a Monetary Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1411-28, November.
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