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Long-term Debt and Optimal Policy in the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level

  • John H. Cochrane

The fiscal theory says that the price level is determined by the ratio of nominal debt to the present value of real primary surpluses. I analyze long-term debt and optimal policy in the fiscal theory. I find that the maturity structure of the debt matters. For example, it determines whether news of future deficits implies current inflation or future inflation. When long term debt is present, the government can trade current inflation for future inflation by debt operations; this tradeoff is not present if the government rolls over short term debt. I solve for optimal debt policies to minimize the variance of inflation. I find cases in which long-term debt helps to stabilize inflation, and I find that the optimal inflation-stabilizing policy produces time series that are surprisingly similar to U.S. surplus and debt time series.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6771.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6771.

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Date of creation: Oct 1998
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Publication status: published as Cochrane, John H. "Long-Term Debt And Optimal Policy In The Fiscal Theory Of The Price Level," Econometrica, 2001, v69(1,Jan), 69-116.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6771
Note: EFG
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  1. Sims, Christopher A, 1994. "A Simple Model for Study of the Determination of the Price Level and the Interaction of Monetary and Fiscal Policy," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 381-99.
  2. Matthew B. Canzoneri & Robert E. Cumby & Behzad T. Diba, 1998. "Is the Price Level Determined by the Needs of Fiscal Solvency?," NBER Working Papers 6471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Woodford, Michael, 1995. "Price-level determinacy without control of a monetary aggregate," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 1-46, December.
  4. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1973. "Some International Evidence on Output-Inflation Tradeoffs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 326-34, June.
  5. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
  6. John H. Cochrane, 1998. "A Frictionless View of U.S. Inflation," CRSP working papers 479, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  7. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
  8. Sargent, Thomas J & Wallace, Neil, 1975. ""Rational" Expectations, the Optimal Monetary Instrument, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(2), pages 241-54, April.
  9. Michael Woodford, 1996. "Control of the Public Debt: A Requirement for Price Stability?," NBER Working Papers 5684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dupor, Bill, 2000. "Exchange rates and the fiscal theory of the price level," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 613-630, June.
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