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Political and Economic Determinants of Budget Deficits in the IndustrialDemocracies


  • Nouriel Roubini
  • Jeffrey Sachs


This paper focuses on the management of fiscal deficits and the public debt in the industrial democracies. Given the large deficits in many OECD countries in recent years, and the resulting sharp rise in the public debt, it is important to determine the economic and political forces leading to such large deficits. We find only partial support for the "equilibrium approach to fiscal policy", which assumes that tax rates are set over time in order to minimize the excess burden of taxation. Tax rates do not seem to be smoothed, and budget deficits in many countries in recent years appear to be too large to be explained by appeal to transitory increases in government spending. We suggest that in several countries the slow rate at which the post-'73 fiscal deficits were reduced resulted from the difficulties of political management in coalition governments. There is a clear tendency for larger deficits in countries characterized by a by a short average tenure of government and by the presence of many political parties in a ruling coalition.

Suggested Citation

  • Nouriel Roubini & Jeffrey Sachs, 1988. "Political and Economic Determinants of Budget Deficits in the IndustrialDemocracies," NBER Working Papers 2682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2682
    Note: EFG

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    6. Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1985. "Current Account Dynamics and the Terms of Trade: Harberger-Laursen-Metzler Two Generations Later," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(1), pages 43-65, February.
    7. Martin Neil Baily, 1974. "Wages and Employment under Uncertain Demand," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-50.
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