Political Devolution without Fiscal Devolution
Using a conventional model, this paper examines the conditions under which it is possible to stabilise both the output (inflation) cycle and the budget deficit/surplus of a regional economy in a wider currency union. We find that it is never possible. But we can approximate that result (for example, by limiting budgetary instability when the cycle is smoothed) if the product and labour markets are suitably flexible. Conversely, if fiscal policy is restricted, output and inflation volatility will be extended unless all shocks are supply shocks, compared to the case where there is some fiscal autonomy. Attempts at stabilisation in this situation would lead to an unstable political equilibrium. These results are important because they show what can be expected from fiscal restraints like the Stability Pact or tax harmonisation in the Eurozone; and from fiscal autonomy at the subnational level in older unions. Calibrating the results for the EU and UK respectively, we find that denying autonomy to the regions of the UK might be rather costly in terms of performance. But imposing tax harmonisation at the EU level would not.
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