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Uncertainty and the Design of Long-Run Fiscal Policy

  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Kevin A. Hassett

This paper explores optimal fiscal policy in an overlapping-generations general-equilibrium model under uncertainty and the impact on optimal policy of the introduction of a type of policy stickiness intended to account for the stylized fact that major reforms happen infrequently. In general, our analysis suggests not only that action should not be delayed, but further that action should actually be accelerated. The added realism of restrictions on the frequency of policy changes alters this result in two ways. The prospect of being unable to set policy in the future occasions even more precautionary saving today, if the government acts. However, the government may also choose not to set policy, and its inaction range is very asymmetric. Because the impact of its policies on the current elderly cannot be reversed in the future, the government is much more likely to choose inaction when fiscal tightening is called for. Thus, the optimal policy response over time might best be characterized by great caution in general, but punctuated by occasional periods of apparent irresponsibility.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7036.

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Date of creation: Mar 1999
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Auerbach, A. J. and K. A. Hassett. "Fiscal Policy And Uncertainty," International Finance, 2002, v5(2,Summer), 229-249.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7036
Note: PE EFG
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  1. Kotlikoff, L.J. & Raffelhuschen, B., 1999. "Generational Accounting around the Globe," Norway; Department of Economics, University of Bergen 195, Department of Economics, University of Bergen.
  2. Auerbach, Alan J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J. & Leibfritz, Willi (ed.), 1999. "Generational Accounting around the World," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226032139.
  3. Bohn, Henning, 1998. "Risk Sharing in a Stochastic Overlapping Generations Economy," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt9r2809f0, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. Chari, V V & Christiano, Lawrence J & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1994. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 617-52, August.
  5. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 940-71, October.
  6. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
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