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The Politics of Intergenerational Redistribution


  • Guido Tabellini


This paper studies the political-economic equilibrium of a two-period model with overlapping generations. In each period the policy is chosen under majority rule by the generations currently alive. The paper identifies a "sustainable set" of values for public debt. Any amount of debt within this set is fully repaid in equilibrium, even in the absence of commitments. By issuing debt within this set, the first generation of voters redistributes revenue in its favor and away from the second generation. The paper characterizes the determinants of the equilibrium intergenerational redistribution carried out in this way, and points to a difference between debt policy and social security legislation as instruments of redistribution. The key features of the model are heterogeneity within each generation and altruism across generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Guido Tabellini, 1989. "The Politics of Intergenerational Redistribution," NBER Working Papers 3058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3058
    Note: ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "Sovereign Debt: Is to Forgive to Forget?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 43-50, March.
    2. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1989. "Social Security as Trade among Living Generations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1182-1195, December.
    3. Chari V. V. & Kehoe Patrick J., 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Debt," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 230-261, December.
    4. Grossman, Herschel I & Van Huyck, John B, 1988. "Sovereign Debt as a Contingent Claim: Excusable Default, Repudiation, and Reputation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1088-1097, December.
    5. repec:fth:harver:1461 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1989. "A Political Theory of Government Debt and Deficits in a Neo-Ricardian Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 713-732, September.
    7. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1988. "Social Contracts as Assets: A Possible Solution to the Time-Consistency Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 662-677, September.
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