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Measuring fiscal stance for the United Kingdom, 1920-1990


  • van der Eng, Pierre


The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it presents a very concise way of measuring fiscal stance. This procedure is based on the assumption that the ‘neutral change’ in the government budget can best be simulated with a long-term approximation of the underlying trend of total output. It is transparent and straight-forward, albeit to some extent necessarily arbitrary. Second, the procedure allows a long-term view on fiscal stance in the UK. It employs a consistent approach, which makes it possible to unify the discussions which have hitherto focussed on separate decades on the basis of measures of fiscal stance, which were difficult to compare. The results of the exercise show that government policies added to the total demand in the economy during the late 1930s. The impact was sustained over the years 1948-67, although the short-term impact of policies caused the stance of fiscal policy to fluctuate. After 1975 a gradual decline of public expenditure started, while revenues remained at level. During 1979-1990 the net contribution of the public budget to total demand has been negative in an economic sense. As far as governments attempted to smooth business cycles by fluctuating the stance of fiscal policy, their attempts do not seem to have been successful. The growth of GDP was subjected to business cycles throughout the period under observation. As far as the impact had some significance, it appeared to have prevented a major set-back in output growth in the 1930s. In contrast, it seems to have increased the shortfall in total demand in the 1980s.

Suggested Citation

  • van der Eng, Pierre, 1992. "Measuring fiscal stance for the United Kingdom, 1920-1990," MPRA Paper 38284, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Jul 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:38284

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alan T. Peacock & Jack Wiseman, 1961. "The Growth of Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number peac61-1, June.
    2. Miller, Marcus, 1985. "Measuring the Stance of Fiscal Policy," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 44-57, Spring.
    3. S. N. Broadberry, 1984. "Fiscal Policy in Britain During the 1930s," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 37(1), pages 95-102, February.
    4. Alan Booth, 1987. "Britain in the 1930s: a managed economy?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 40(4), pages 499-522, November.
    5. Jean-Claude Chouraqui & Robert P. Hagemann & Nicola Sartor, 1990. "Indicators of Fiscal Policy: A Re-Examination," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 78, OECD Publishing.
    6. G. A. Mackenzie, 1989. "Are All Summary Indicators of the Stance of Fiscal Policy Misleading?," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 36(4), pages 743-770, December.
    7. J.C.R. Dow, 1964. "The Management of the British Economy 1945-60," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 28(1), pages 74-74, May.
    8. Boltho, Andrea, 1981. "British Fiscal Policy, 1955-71--Stabilizing or Destabilizing?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 43(4), pages 357-362, November.
    9. Snyder, Wayne W, 1970. "Measuring Economic Stabilization: 1955-65," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(5), pages 924-933, December.
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    More about this item


    fiscal stance; fiscal policy; budget deficit; public expenditure; business cycles; United Kingdom; United States;

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General
    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-


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