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The McKenna Rule and UK World War I Finance

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Abstract

This paper argues that UK WWI fiscal policy followed the ‘English method’ identified by Sprague (1917) and his discussants, and revived by the US to finance the Korean War (see Ohanian 1997). During WWI, UK fiscal policy adopted the “McKenna rule” named for Reginald McKenna, Chancellor of the Exchequer (1915-16). McKenna presented his fiscal rule to Parliament in June 1915. The McKenna rule guided UK fiscal policy for the rest of WWI and the interwar period. We draw on narrative evidence to show that motivation for the McKenna rule came from a desire to treat labour and capital fairly and equitably, not pass WWI costs onto future generations, and commit to a debt retirement path and higher taxes. However, a permanent income model suggests the McKenna rule adversely affected the UK because a higher debt retirement rate produces a lower consumption-output ratio. Data from 1916-37 supports this prediction.

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  • James M Nason & Shaun P Vahey, 2007. "The McKenna Rule and UK World War I Finance," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series DP2007/08, Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzb:nzbdps:2007/08
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. George J. Hall & Thomas J. Sargent, 1997. "Accounting for the federal government's cost of funds," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, vol. 21(Jul), pages 18-28.
    2. S. Rao Aiyagari & Albert Marcet & Thomas J. Sargent & Juha Seppala, 2002. "Optimal Taxation without State-Contingent Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1220-1254, December.
    3. Shaun P. Vahey & James M. Nason, 2005. "Over the Top: U.K. World War I Finance and Its Aftermath," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 22, Society for Computational Economics.
    4. Ohanian, Lee E, 1997. "The Macroeconomic Effects of War Finance in the United States: World War II and the Korean War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 23-40, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. James M. Nason & Shaun P. Vahey, 2012. "UK World War I and interwar data for business cycle and growth analysis," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 6(2), pages 115-142, May.
    2. Teupe, Sebastian, 2020. "Keynes, Inflation, and the Public Debt: "How to Pay for the War" as a Policy Prescription for Financial Repression?," Working Papers 16, German Research Foundation's Priority Programme 1859 "Experience and Expectation. Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour", Humboldt University Berlin.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation

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