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Does Wagner's law ruin the sustainability of German public finances?

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  • Priesmeier, Christoph
  • Koester, Gerrit B.

Abstract

The empirical and theoretical literature on long-term relationships in public finance is dominated by two approaches: Fiscal sustainability and Wagner's law of an increasing state activity. In this paper, we argue that these two relationships should be analyzed simultaneously and not separately. We show how Wagner's law might influence fiscal sustainability and how the interaction of the two can be modelled using vector error correction models that include public expenditures, revenues and GDP. For Germany, we find strong evidence for Wagner's law throughout the whole period analyzed (1960-2007), while our results indicate sustainability of public finances only until 1973. We show that, for the period after 1973, it is the interaction of permanent expenditure increases and revenue reductions resulting from fiscal policy reactions to the oil crisis and Wagner's law that ruins the sustainability of public finances in Germany. Our findings underline the importance of the German debt brake for re-establishing sustainable public finances even under Wagner's law.

Suggested Citation

  • Priesmeier, Christoph & Koester, Gerrit B., 2012. "Does Wagner's law ruin the sustainability of German public finances?," Discussion Papers 08/2012, Deutsche Bundesbank.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:bubdps:082012
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Funashima, Yoshito & Hiraga, Kazuki, 2016. "Wagner's law, fiscal discipline, and intergovernmental transfer: Empirical evidence at the U.S. and German state levels," MPRA Paper 73551, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Niklas Potrafke & Markus Reischmann, 2012. "Fiscal Equalization Schemes and Fiscal Sustainability," ifo Working Paper Series 141, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    3. Burret, Heiko T. & Feld, Lars P. & Köhler, Ekkehard A., 2016. "(Un-)Sustainability of Public Finances in German Laender: A Panel Time Series Approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 254-265.
    4. Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (ed.), 2013. "Gegen eine rückwärtsgewandte Wirtschaftspolitik. Jahresgutachten 2013/14," Annual Economic Reports / Jahresgutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, volume 127, number 201314.
    5. Niklas Potrafke & Markus Reischmann, 2015. "Fiscal Transfers and Fiscal Sustainability," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 47(5), pages 975-1005, August.
    6. repec:voj:journl:v:63:y:2016:i:1:p:45-60 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10797-017-9458-z is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Heiko T. Burret & Lars P. Feld & Ekkehard A. Köhler, 2014. "Panel Cointegration Tests on the Fiscal Sustainability of German Laender," CESifo Working Paper Series 4929, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fiscal sustainability; Wagner's law; Structural breaks; Cointegration; Vector error correction models;

    JEL classification:

    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H19 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Other
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy

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