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Electoral Uncertainty and the Deficit Bias in a New Keynesian Economy

  • Cambell Leith

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  • Simon Wren-Lewis
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    Recent attempts to incorporate optimal fiscal policy into New Keynesian models subject to nominal inertia, have tended to assume that policy makers are benevolent and have access to a commitment technology. A separate literature, on the New Political Economy, has focused on real economies where there is strategic use of policy instruments in a world of political conflict. In this paper we combine these literatures and assume that policy is set in a New Keynesian economy by one of two policy makers facing electoral uncertainty (in terms of infrequent elections and an endogenous voting mechanism). The policy makers generally share the social welfare function, but differ in their preferences over fiscal expenditure (in its size and/or composition). Given the environment, policy shall be realistically constrained to be time-consistent. In a sticky-price economy, such heterogeneity gives rise to the possibility of one policy maker utilising (nominal) debt strategically to tie the hands of the other party, and influence the outcome of any future elections. This can give rise to a deficit bias, implying a sub-optimally high level of steady-state debt, and can also imply a suboptimal response to shocks. The steady-state distortions and inflation bias this generates, combined with the volatility induced by the electoral cycle in a stickyprice environment, can significantly raise the costs of having a less than fully benevolent policy maker.

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    Paper provided by Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis in its series CDMA Conference Paper Series with number 0803.

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    Handle: RePEc:san:cdmacp:0803
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    1. Peter N. Ireland, 2004. "Technology Shocks in the New Keynesian Model," NBER Working Papers 10309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Smets, Frank & Wouters, Rafael, 2004. "Comparing Shocks and Frictions in US and Euro Area Business Cycles: A Bayesian DSGE Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 4750, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    4. Krusell, Per & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1997. "Politico-economic equilibrium and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 243-272, January.
    5. Leith, Campbell & Wren-Lewis, Simon, 2012. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," SIRE Discussion Papers 2012-84, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    6. Pierpaolo Benigno & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy: A Linear Quadratic Approach," NBER Working Papers 9905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Scholarly Articles 3612769, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    9. Soderlind, Paul, 1999. "Solution and estimation of RE macromodels with optimal policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 813-823, April.
    10. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
    11. Motohiro Yogo, 2004. "Estimating the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution When Instruments Are Weak," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(3), pages 797-810, August.
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