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Fiscal discipline as a social norm : the European Stability Pact

  • Jean-Paul Fitoussi

    (OFCE)

  • Francesco Saraceno

    (OFCE)

This paper reviews the arguments for 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 used to yield opposite, and equally plausible conclusions. We also argue that evidence in favour of a Pact-like rule is scant. We therefore suggest the view that the Stability Pact is a public social norm, and that a country’s adherence to that norm is in fact a response to the need to preserve reputation among 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 reputation issues may cause the emergence of a stable but inferior equilibrium. We further show that after the enlargement, with a number of countries anxious to prove their ‘soundness’ joining the club, 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°2007-22.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/1482
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  1. Ardagna, Silvia & Caselli, Francesco & Lane, Timothy, 2004. "Fiscal discipline and the cost of public dept service: some estiames for OECD countries," Working Paper Series 0411, European Central Bank.
  2. 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.
  3. Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Francesco Saraceno, 2008. "Fiscal Discipline as a Social Norm: The European Stability Pact," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/9909, Sciences Po.
  4. Willem H. Buiter & Clemens Grafe, 2004. "Patching up the Pact," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 12(1), pages 67-102, 03.
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  12. Thomas Laubach, 2009. "New Evidence on the Interest Rate Effects of Budget Deficits and Debt," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 858-885, 06.
  13. Jean-Paul Fitoussi & Francesco Saraceno, 2008. "Fiscal Discipline as a Social Norm: The European Stability Pact," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/9909, Sciences Po.
  14. Fatás, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2002. "The Case for Restricting Fiscal Policy Discretion," CEPR Discussion Papers 3277, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  17. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
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  22. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
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  24. 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.
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  28. Matthew B. Canzoneri & Robert E. Cumby & Behzad T. Diba, 2002. "Should the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve be concerned about fiscal policy?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 333-389.
  29. Francesco Giavazzi & Marco Pagano, 1990. "Can Severe Fiscal Contractions be Expansionary? Tales of Two Small European Countries," NBER Working Papers 3372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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