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Fiscal Rules and Discretion under Persistent Shocks

  • Marina Halac
  • Pierre Yared

This paper studies the optimal level of discretion in policymaking. We consider a fiscal policy model where the government has time-inconsistent preferences with a present-bias towards public spending. The government chooses a fiscal rule to trade off its desire to commit to not overspend against its desire to have flexibility to react to privately observed shocks to the value of spending. We analyze the optimal fiscal rule when the shocks are persistent. Unlike under i.i.d. shocks, we show that the ex-ante optimal rule is not sequentially optimal, as it provides dynamic incentives. The ex-ante optimal rule exhibits history dependence, with high shocks leading to an erosion of future fiscal discipline compared to low shocks, which lead to the reinstatement of discipline. The implied policy distortions oscillate over time given a sequence of high shocks, and can force the government to accumulate maximal debt and become immiserated in the long run.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18545.

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Date of creation: Nov 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18545
Note: EFG POL
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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 403-14, July.
  2. Marek Kapicka, 2013. "Efficient Allocations in Dynamic Private Information Economies with Persistent Shocks: A First-Order Approach," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1027-1054.
  3. Marina Azzimonti, 2009. "Barriers to investment in polarized societies," 2009 Meeting Papers 1233, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  8. Marina, Azzimonti & Marco, Battaglini & Stephen, Coate, 2010. "On the Case for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," MPRA Paper 25935, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. 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.
  10. Pierre Yared, 2010. "Politicians, Taxes and Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(2), pages 806-840.
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  16. Lizzeri, Alessandro, 1999. "Budget Deficits and Redistributive Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(4), pages 909-28, October.
  17. Ricardo J. Caballero & Pierre Yared, 2008. "Future Rent-Seeking and Current Public Savings," NBER Working Papers 14417, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Christopher Sleet, 2004. "Optimal Taxation with Private Government Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 1217-1239.
  19. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Political Economy of Budget Deficits," NBER Working Papers 4637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Bruno Strulovici, 2011. "Renegotiation-Proof Contracts with Moral Hazard and Persistent Private Information," Discussion Papers 1519, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  21. Kocherlakota, Narayana R., 1996. "Reconsideration-Proofness: A Refinement for Infinite Horizon Time Inconsistency," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 33-54, July.
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