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Debt and Taxes in Eight U.S. Wars and Two Insurrections

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  • George J. Hall
  • Thomas J. Sargent

Abstract

From decompositions of U.S. federal fiscal accounts from 1790 to 1988, we describe differences and patterns in how expenditure surges were financed during 8 wars between 1812 and 1975. We also study two insurrections. We use two benchmark theories of optimal taxation and borrowing to frame a narrative of how government decision makers reasoned and learned about how to manage a common set of forces that bedeviled them during all of the wars, forces that included interest rate risks, unknown durations of expenditure surges, government creditors' debt dilution fears, and temptations to use changes in units of account and inflation to restructure debts. Ex post real rates of return on government securities are a big part of our story.

Suggested Citation

  • George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 2020. "Debt and Taxes in Eight U.S. Wars and Two Insurrections," NBER Working Papers 27115, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27115
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • N41 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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