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Love Thy Children: Reflections on the Barro Debt Neutrality Theorem

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  • Philippe Weil

Abstract

This paper proves that Barro's (1974) debt neutrality proposition, whose relevance hinges, in an economy with bequest motives, on bequests being operative in the economy without public debt, is not applicable to a wide class of overlapping generation economies — those with a ‘weak’ bequest motive. In particular, it is shown that the bequest motive is always too weak, and public debt therefore non-neutral, when non-physical assets have a well-defined function (reducing oversavings) in the corresponding economy without bequest motive, i.e., when the non-altruistic economy is dynamically inefficient.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Weil, 1987. "Love Thy Children: Reflections on the Barro Debt Neutrality Theorem," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/8711, Sciences Po.
  • Handle: RePEc:spo:wpmain:info:hdl:2441/8711
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    File URL: http://spire.sciencespo.fr/hdl:/2441/8711/resources/love-thy-children.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Gale, David, 1973. "Pure exchange equilibrium of dynamic economic models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 12-36, February.
    3. Carmichael, Jeffrey, 1982. "On Barro's Theorem of Debt Neutrality: The Irrelevance of Net Wealth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 202-213, March.
    4. Drazen, Allan, 1978. "Government Debt, Human Capital, and Bequests in a Life-Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 505-516, June.
    5. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1988. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-25.
    6. Tirole, Jean, 1985. "Asset Bubbles and Overlapping Generations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1499-1528, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Becker, Torbjörn, 1995. "Government Debt and Private Consumption: Theory and Evidence," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 71, Stockholm School of Economics.
    2. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/8712 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Barro, Robert J, 1989. "The Ricardian Approach to Budget Deficits," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 37-54, Spring.
    4. O'Connell, Stephen A. & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1993. "Dynamic efficiency in the gifts economy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 363-379, June.
    5. Dominik Grafenhofer & Christian Jaag & Christian Keuschnigg & Mirela Keuschnigg, 2005. "Probabilistic Aging," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2005 2005-08, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
    6. Philippe Michel & Alain Venditti & Claude Jessua, 1996. "Croissance optimale et cycles dans le modèle à générations imbriquées : un exemple," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 47(3), pages 487-497.
    7. Dominik Grafenhofer & Christian Jaag & Christian Keuschnigg & Mirela Keuschnigg, 2007. "Economic ageing and demographic change," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 5(1), pages 133-165.
    8. Thibault, Emmanuel, 2016. "Demonstration effect and dynamic efficiency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 42-45.
    9. Laps, Jochen, 2016. "Fully Funded Social Security Pensions, Lifetime Risk and Income," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145587, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    10. Abel, Andrew B., 1989. "Birth, death and taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-15, June.
    11. S. Brock Blomberg, 1996. "A Model Of Voter Choice In A Life-Cycle Setting," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(3), pages 213-229, November.
    12. repec:bla:jecrev:v:68:y:2017:i:3:p:333-351 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Leeper, Eric M. & Plante, Michael & Traum, Nora, 2010. "Dynamics of fiscal financing in the United States," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(2), pages 304-321, June.
    14. Biancamaria d'Onofrio & Bertrand Wigniolle, 2010. "Imperfect competition, technical progress and capital accumulation," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 6(4), pages 355-366.
    15. Philippe Weil, 2008. "Overlapping Generations: The First Jubilee," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 115-134, Fall.
    16. Becker, Torbjörn, 1995. "Budget Deficits, Stochastic Population Size and Consumption," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 75, Stockholm School of Economics.
    17. Emmanuel Thibault, 2017. "Is GDP a Relevant Social Welfare Indicator? A Savers–Spenders Theory Approach," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 68(3), pages 333-351, September.
    18. Geoffrey M. B. Tootell, 1992. "Back to the future: monetary policy and the twin deficits," Working Papers 92-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    19. Pascal Belan & Erwan Moussault, 2018. "Inheritance taxation in a model with intergenerational time transfers," THEMA Working Papers 2018-05, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    20. repec:kap:enreec:v:69:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10640-016-0095-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Michel, Philippe & Vidal, Jean-Pierre, 2003. "Self-control and savings," Working Paper Series 211, European Central Bank.

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