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Optimal Fiscal Policy without Commitment: Beyond Lucas-Stokey

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  • Davide Debortoli
  • Ricardo Nunes
  • Pierre Yared

Abstract

According to the Lucas-Stokey result, a government can structure its debt maturity to guarantee commitment to optimal fiscal policy by future governments. In this paper, we overturn this conclusion, showing that it does not generally hold in the same model and under the same definition of time-consistency as in Lucas-Stokey. Our argument rests on the existence of an overlooked commitment problem that cannot be remedied with debt maturity: a government in the future will not tax on the downward slopping side of the Laffer curve, even if it is ex-ante optimal to do so. In light of this finding, we propose a new framework to characterize time-consistent policy. We consider a Markov Perfect Competitive Equilibrium, where a government reoptimizes sequentially and may deviate from the optimal commitment policy. We find that, in a deterministic economy, any stationary distribution of debt maturity must be flat, with the government owing the same amount at all future dates.

Suggested Citation

  • Davide Debortoli & Ricardo Nunes & Pierre Yared, 2018. "Optimal Fiscal Policy without Commitment: Beyond Lucas-Stokey," NBER Working Papers 24522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24522
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Niepelt, Dirk, 2014. "Debt maturity without commitment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S), pages 37-54.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Optimal Fiscal Policy without Commitment: Beyond Lucas-Stokey
      by Christian Zimmermann in NEP-DGE blog on 2019-10-19 22:48:17

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt

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