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Fiscal Rules: Theoretical Issues and Historical Experiences

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  • Charles Wyplosz

Abstract

Fiscal indiscipline is a feature of many developed countries. It is generally accepted that the source of the phenomenon lies in the common pool problem, the fact that recipients of public spending to fail to fully internalize the costs that taxpayers must assume. As a result, democratically elected governments are led to postpone tax collection, or to cut spending. Solving the fiscal discipline problem requires internalizing this externality. This calls for adequate institutions or for rules, or both. This paper reviews the various types of solutions that have been discussed in the literature and surveys a number of experiments. With the European debt crisis in mind, the paper pays particular attention to the common pool problem that emerges in federal states. The main conclusions are the following. First, rules are unlikely to exist unless they come with supporting institutions. Second, fiscal institutions are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve fiscal discipline, but they help. Third, because institutions must bind the policymakers without violating the democratic requirement that elected officials have the power to decide on budgets, effective arrangements are those that give institutions the authority to apply legal rules or to act as official watchdogs.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Wyplosz, 2012. "Fiscal Rules: Theoretical Issues and Historical Experiences," NBER Working Papers 17884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17884
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    2. Tóth, Csaba G., 2017. "Own or inherited? The effect of national fiscal rules after changes of government," MPRA Paper 81178, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Kumhof, Michael & Laxton, Douglas, 2013. "Simple fiscal policy rules for small open economies," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 113-127.
    4. Catherine Mathieu & Henri Sterdyniak, 2012. "Faut-il des règles de politique budgétaire ?," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(7), pages 299-346.
    5. Neyapti, Bilin, 2013. "Fiscal decentralization, fiscal rules and fiscal discipline," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 528-532.
    6. Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini & Ugo Troiano, 2011. "Policy Responses to Fiscal Restraints: A Difference-in-Discontinuities Design," Working Papers 397, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    7. Katerina Arnostova & Oxana Babecka Kucharcukova & Jan Babecky & Vojtech Belling & Sona Benecka & Jan Bruha & Martin Gurtler & Tomas Holub & Eva Hromadkova & Lubos Komarek & Zlatuse Komarkova & Petr Kr, 2016. "Analyses of the Czech Republic's Current Economic Alignment with the Euro Area 2016," Occasional Publications - Edited Volumes, Czech National Bank, Research Department, number as16 edited by Katerina Arnostova & Lucie Matejkova.
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      [Rules vs Discretion in Fiscal Policy: An Introduction to the Case of the Dominican Republic]
      ," MPRA Paper 68332, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Maltritz, Dominik & Wüste, Sebastian, 2015. "Determinants of budget deficits in Europe: The role and relations of fiscal rules, fiscal councils, creative accounting and the Euro," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 222-236.
    12. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eo6779thqgm5r489maqa474kg is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Niels Gilbert & Jeroen Hessel & Silvie Verkaart, 2013. "Towards a Stable Monetary Union: What Role for Eurobonds?," DNB Working Papers 379, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    14. repec:cnb:ocpubv:as17 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Hanappi, Hardy, 2013. "Future methods of political economy: from Hicks’ equation systems to evolutionary macroeconomic simulation," MPRA Paper 47181, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. André Grjebine, 2013. "L’Eurosystème : un mécanisme de transferts en faveur des pays déficitaires ?: Le débat," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/eo6779thqgm, Sciences Po.
    17. Silvana Bartoletto & Bruno Chiarini & Elisabetta Marzano, 2012. "The Sustainability of Fiscal Policy in Italy: A Long-Term Perspective," CESifo Working Paper Series 3812, CESifo Group Munich.
    18. Tamim Bayoumi, 2015. "The Dog That Didn’t Bark; The Strange Case of Domestic Policy Cooperation in the “New Normal”," IMF Working Papers 15/156, International Monetary Fund.
    19. Wolf Heinrich Reuter, 2016. "Design of fiscal frameworks and compliance with fiscal rules in CESEE," Focus on European Economic Integration, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 3, pages 29-40.
    20. Badinger, Harald & Reuter, Wolf Heinrich, 2015. "Measurement of fiscal rules: Introducing the application of partially ordered set (POSET) theory," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 108-123.
    21. Jakob de Haan & Niels D. Gilbert & Jeroen Hessel & Silvie Verkaart, 2013. "How to Enforce Fiscal Discipline in EMU: A Proposal," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 149(II), pages 205-217, June.
    22. Balatoni, András & Tóth G., Csaba, 2012. "Az új magyar adósságszabály értékelése
      [Assessment of the new regulations on debt]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(10), pages 1107-1137.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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