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On The Need For Fiscal Discipline in an Union


  • Joshua Aizenman


This paper investigates the behavior of public debt in countries forming a union (as outlined, e.g., by the Maastricht treaty). We consider a federal union of states where the center has limited control over the spending patterns of the union members, and where the union members' behavior has repercussions for the future public debt. The public has preferences against higher public debt, and will oust high-debt administrations. Adverse shocks are shown to induce a regime switch from a cooperative outcome to limited cooperation, and from limited cooperation to the noncooperative outcome. While a transitory adverse shock calls for a higher public debt in the cooperative regime, the switch towards limited cooperation entails a drop in the public debt (relative to the cooperative desirable outcome). With limited cooperation further drops in income will call for a drop in public debt. If the adverse shock is powerful enough, sustaining limited cooperation may become unfeasible. A regime switch may yield nonlinearities, where the macroeconomic behavior is abruptly altered following the switch. Our model provides a tentative support for limits on public debt, needed to free the instrument of deficit financing for use in bad recessions.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Aizenman, 1994. "On The Need For Fiscal Discipline in an Union," NBER Working Papers 4656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4656
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Buiter,Willem H. & Marston,Richard C., 1986. "International Economic Policy Coordination," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521337809, May.
    2. Canzoneri, Matthew B., 1989. "Adverse incentives in the taxation of foreigners," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3-4), pages 283-297, November.
    3. Alex Cukierman, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, and Independence: Theory and Evidence," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262031981, July.
    4. Aizenman, Joshua, 1992. "Competitive Externalities and the Optimal Seigniorage," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 24(1), pages 61-71, February.
    5. Casella, Alessandra, 1992. "Participation in a Currency Union," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 847-863, September.
    6. Alesina, Alberto & Drazen, Allan, 1991. "Why Are Stabilizations Delayed?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1170-1188, December.
    7. Wyplosz, Charles, 1991. "Monetary Union and Fiscal Policy Discipline," CEPR Discussion Papers 488, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Beetsma, Roel M. W. J. & Bovenberg, A. Lans, 1999. "Does monetary unification lead to excessive debt accumulation?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 299-325, December.
    2. Pierre-Yves Hénin, 1997. "Soutenabilité des déficits et ajustements budgétaires," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 48(3), pages 371-395.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F42 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - International Policy Coordination and Transmission


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