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The flaws in Keynsian borrow and spend


  • Musgrave, Ralph S.


Borrow and spend is a policy with several weaknesses. 1, it involves government borrowing something, that is money, which government can create in limitless quantities any time. 2, the “borrow” part of borrow and spend is deflationary: the opposite of the desired effect. 3, borrow and spend may result in interest rate increases and crowding out. To get round this, governments print extra money and buy back government securities. This is a charade: governments here are engaged in “print and spend” while pretending to effect “borrow and spend”. 4, when borrowings are paid back, the initial reflationary effect is reversed, thus borrow and spend does not have a permanent effect, whereas print and spend does. 5, one of the ways that borrow and spend works is that it supplies the private sector with additional assets (bonds which pay interest). This reduces “paradox of thrift” unemployment. But the private sector actually NEEDS or WANTS these assets, thus there is no need to pay interest to induce the recipients to accept those assets. Put another way, governments should issue zero interest bonds (i.e. cash) not interest paying bonds. 6, Borrow and spend expands the national debt, some of which will be held by foreigners. Paying interest to foreigners when no interest needs to be paid makes even less sense than paying such interest to natives. For the purposes of influencing unemployment and inflation, print and spend is a superior policy to adjusting interest rates because the latter is distortionary.

Suggested Citation

  • Musgrave, Ralph S., 2010. "The flaws in Keynsian borrow and spend," MPRA Paper 25434, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25434

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hillinger, Claude, 2010. "The crisis and beyond: Thinking outside the box," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 4, pages 1-61.
    2. Kellermann, Kersten, 2007. "Debt financing of public investment: On a popular misinterpretation of "the golden rule of public sector borrowing"," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 1088-1104, December.
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    More about this item


    Keynes; borrow and spend; national debt; government borrowing; print money; interest rates;

    JEL classification:

    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian; Modern Monetary Theory
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money

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