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A Theory of Social Custom of Which Soft Growth May Be One Consequence. Tales of the European Stability Pact

  • Jean-Paul Fitoussi


  • Francesco Saraceno

This paper reviews the arguments in favour and against the “Stability and Growth Pact” signed by the countries of the Euro area. We find the theoretical debate to be inconclusive, as both externality and credibility arguments can be reversed to yield opposite, and equally plausible conclusions. We therefore suggest the view that the stability pact is a social norm, and that adherence to that norm responds in fact to the need to preserve reputation in front of the other members of the European Union. Using this extreme but not implausible hypothesis, we build a simple model similar in spirit to Akerlof’s (1980) seminal paper on social norms, and we show that reputational issues may cause the emergence of a stable and inferior equilibrium. We further show that, when with the enlargement a number of countries anxious to prove their ‘soundness’ will join the Union, the problems posed by the pact/social norm are likely to increase.

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Paper provided by Sciences Po in its series Sciences Po publications with number n°2002-07.

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Date of creation: 16 Oct 2002
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Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/1422
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  1. Andersen, Torben M. & Sorensen, Jan Rose, 1995. "Unemployment and fiscal policy in an economic and monetary union," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 27-43, March.
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  6. Giavazzi, Francesco & Pagano, Marco, 1995. "Non-Keynesian Effects of Fiscal Policy Changes: International Evidence and the Swedish Experience," CEPR Discussion Papers 1284, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Alesina, Alberto F & Angeloni, Ignazio & Etro, Federico, 2003. "International Unions," CEPR Discussion Papers 3913, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Andrew Hughes Hallett & Laura Piscitelli, 2002. "Does One Size Fit All? A currency union with asymmetric transmissions and a stability pact," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 71-96.
  9. Marco Catenaro & Patrizio Tirelli, 2000. "Reconsidering The Pros and Cons of Fiscal Policy Co-ordination in a Monetary Union: Should We Set Public Expenditure Targets ?," School of Economics Discussion Papers 0002, School of Economics, University of Surrey.
  10. Jensen, Henrik, 1996. "The advantage of international fiscal cooperation under alternative monetary regimes," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 485-504, November.
  11. Beetsma, Roel & Uhlig, Harald, 1999. "An Analysis of the Stability and Growth Pact," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 546-71, October.
  12. Marco Buti & Werner Roeger & Jan In't Veld, 2001. "Stabilizing Output and Inflation: Policy Conflicts and Co-operation under a Stability Pact," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(5), pages 801-828, December.
  13. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1996. "Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries: Composition and Macroeconomic Effects," NBER Working Papers 5730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. repec:oup:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:4:p:1399-1436 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1997. "Fiscal Adjustments in OECD Countries: Composition and Macroeconomic Effects," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(2), pages 210-248, June.
  16. Artis, Michael J & Winkler, Bernhard, 1997. "The Stability Pact: Safeguarding the Credibility of the European Central Bank," CEPR Discussion Papers 1688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. Levine, Paul & Brociner, Andrew, 1994. "Fiscal policy coordination and EMU : A dynamic game approach," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(3-4), pages 699-729.
  18. Dixon, Huw David & Santoni, Michele, 1997. "Fiscal Policy Coordination with Demand Spillovers and Unionised Labour Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 403-17, March.
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