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

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  • John H. Cochrane

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Cochrane, 1998. "Long-term Debt and Optimal Policy in the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level," NBER Working Papers 6771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6771
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John H. Cochrane, 1999. "A Frictionless View of U.S. Inflation," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1998, volume 13, pages 323-421 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.
    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. 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;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 4(3), pages 381-399.
    5. 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 241-254, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1973. "Some International Evidence on Output-Inflation Tradeoffs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 326-334, June.
    8. Michael Woodford, 1996. "Control of the Public Debt: A Requirement for Price Stability?," NBER Working Papers 5684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Matthew B. Canzoneri & Robert E. Cumby & Behzad T. Diba, 2001. "Is the Price Level Determined by the Needs of Fiscal Solvency?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1221-1238, December.
    10. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • E4 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates

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