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Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies

  • Mark A. Aguiar
  • Manuel Amador

We study optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy (SOE) with sovereign and private default risk. The SOE's government uses linear taxation to fund exogenous expenditures and uses public debt to inter-temporally allocate tax distortions. We characterize a class of environments in which the tax on labor goes to zero in the long run, while the tax on capital income may be non-zero, reversing the standard prediction of the Ramsey tax literature. The zero labor tax is an optimal long run outcome if the private agents are impatient relative to the international interest rate and the economy is subject to sovereign debt constraints. The front loading of labor taxes allows the economy to build a large (aggregate) debt position in the presence of limited commitment. We show that a similar result holds in a closed economy with imperfect inter-generational altruism.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17457.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17457
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  1. Mark Aguiar & Manuel Amador, 2011. "Growth in the Shadow of Expropriation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 651-697.
  2. Caballero, Ricardo & Farhi, Emmanuel & Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier, 2006. "An Equilibrium Model of 'Global Imbalances' and Low Interest Rates," CEPR Discussion Papers 5573, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  8. Debraj Ray, 2002. "The Time Structure of Self-Enforcing Agreements," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 547-582, March.
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  17. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  18. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
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