An examination of the behavior of stock returns around quarterly earnings announcement dates finds a seasonal pattern: small firms show large positive abnormal returns and a sizable increase in the variability of returns around these dates. Only part of the large abnormal returns can be accounted for by the fact that firms with good news tend to announce early. Large firms show no abnormal returns around announcement dates and a much smaller increase in variability.
We propose a definition of involuntary unemployment which differs from that traditionally used in implicit labor contract theory. We say that a worker is involuntarily unemployed if the marginal wage implied by the optimal contract exceeds the marginal rate of substitution between leisure and consumption. We construct a model where risk-neutral firms have monopoly power and show that such monopoly power is necessary for involuntary unemployment to arise in the optimal contract. We numerically compute examples and show that such unemployment occurs for a wide range of parameter values.
We examine the limiting behavior of cooperative and noncooperative fiscal policies as countries’ market power goes to zero. We show that these policies converge if countries raise revenues through lump-sum taxation. However, if there are unremovable domestic distortions, such as distorting taxes, there can be gains to coordination even when a single country’s policy cannot affect world prices. These results differ from the received wisdom in the optimal tariff literature. The key distinction is that, unlike in the tariff literature, the spending decisions of governments are explicitly modeled.
We propose a definition of time consistent policy for infinite horizon economies with competitive private agents. Allocations and policies are defined as functions of the history of past policies. A sustainable equilibrium is a sequence of history-contingent policies and allocations that satisfy certain sequential rationality conditions for the government and for private agents. We provide a complete characterization of the sustainable equilibrium outcomes for a variant of Fischer’s (1980) model of capital taxation. We also relate our work to recent developments in the theory of repeated games.
This paper presents a simple general equilibrium model of optimal taxation in which both private agents and the government can default on their debt. As a benchmark we consider Ramsey equilibria in which the government can precommit to its policies at the beginning of time, but in which private agents can default. We then consider sustainable equilibria in which both government and private agent decision rules are required to be sequentially rational. We completely characterize the set of sustainable equilibria. In particular, we show that when there is sufficiently little discounting and government consumption fluctuates enough, the Ramsey allocations and policies (in which the government never defaults) can be supported by a sustainable equilibrium.
This paper presents a simple general equilibrium model of optimal taxation similar to that of Lucas and Stokey (1983), except that we let the government default on its debt. As a benchmark, we consider Ramsey equilibria in which the government can precommit its policies at the beginning of time. We then consider sustainable equilibria in which both government and private agent decision rules are required to be sequentially rational. We concentrate on trigger mechanisms which specify reversion to the finite horizon equilibrium after deviations by the government. The main result is that no Ramsey equilibrium with positive debt can be supported by such trigger mechanisms.
We examine the validity of one version of the Coase Theorem: In any economy in which property rights are fully allocated, competition will lead to efficient allocations. This version of the theorem implies that the public goods problem can be solved by allocating property rights fully and letting markets do their work. We show that this mechanism is not likely to work well in economies with either pure public goods or global externalities. The reason is that the privatized economy turns out to be highly susceptible to strategic behavior in that the free-rider problem in public goods economies manifests itself as a complementary monopoly problem in the private goods economy. If the public goods or externalities are local in nature, however, market mechanisms are likely to work well.
Our work is related to the recent literature on the foundations of Walrasian equilibrium in that it highlights a relationship among the appropriateness of Walrasian equilibrium as a solution concept, the incentives for strategic play, the aggregate level of complementarities in the economy, and the problem of coordinating economic activity.
This paper studies the quantitative properties of fiscal and monetary policy in business cycle models. In terms of fiscal policy, optimal labor tax rates are virtually constant and optimal capital income tax rates are close to zero on average. In terms of monetary policy, the Friedman rule is optimal—nominal interest rates are zero—and optimal monetary policy is activist in the sense that it responds to shocks to the economy.
In this paper we present a formal model of vote trading within a legislature. The model captures the conventional wisdom that if projects with concentrated benefits are financed by universal taxation, then majority rule leads to excessive spending. This occurs because the proponent of a particular bill only needs to acquire the votes of half the legislature and hence internalizes the costs to only half the representatives. We show that Pareto superior allocations are difficult to sustain because of a free rider problem among the representatives. We show that alternative voting rules, such as unanimity, eliminate excessive spending on concentrated benefit projects but lead to underfunding of global public goods.
We find conditions for the Friedman rule to be optimal in three standard models of money. These conditions are homotheticity and separability assumptions on preferences similar to those in the public finance literature on optimal uniform commodity taxation. We show that there is no connection between our results and the result in the standard public finance literature that intermediate goods should not be taxed.
This paper develops the quantitative implications of optimal fiscal policy in a business cycle model. In a stationary equilibrium the ex ante tax rate on capital income is approximately zero. There is an equivalence class of ex post capital income tax rates and bond policies that support a given allocation. Within this class the optimal ex post capital tax rates can range from being close to i.i.d. to being close to a random walk. The tax rate on labor income fluctuates very little and inherits the persistence properties of the exogenous shocks and thus there is no presumption that optimal labor tax rates follow a random walk. The welfare gains from smoothing labor tax rates and making ex ante capital income tax rates zero are small and most of the welfare gains come from an initial period of high taxation on capital income.
We develop a model of a representative democracy in which a legislature makes collective decisions about local public goods expenditures and how they are financed. In our model of the political process legislators defer to spending requests of individual representatives, particularly committee chairmen, who tend to promote spending requests that benefit their own districts. Because legislators do not fully internalize the tax consequences of their individual spending proposals, there is a free rider problem, and as a result spending is excessively high. This leads legislators to prefer a higher level of debt to restrain excessive future spending.
We ask what fraction of the variation in incomes across countries can be accounted for by investment distortions. In our neoclassical growth model the relative price of investment to consumption is a good measure of the distortions. Using data on relative prices we estimate a stochastic process for distortions and compare the resulting variance of incomes in the model to that in the data. We find that the variation of incomes in the model is roughly 4/5 of the variability of incomes in the data. Our model does well in accounting for 6 key regularities on income and investment in the data.
The paper itself is followed by three appendices: Appendix 1 describing the log-likelihood function, Appendix 2 describing the construction of labor share of income associated with the production of consumption and investment goods, and the Data Appendix.
We construct a quantitative equilibrium model with price setting and use it to ask whether with staggered price setting monetary shocks can generate business cycle fluctuations. These fluctuations include persistent output fluctuations along with the other defining features of business cycles, like volatile investment and smooth consumption. We assume that prices are exogenously sticky for a short period of time. Persistent output fluctuations require endogenous price stickiness in the sense that firms choose not to change prices very much when they can do so. We find that for a wide range of parameter values the amount of endogenous stickiness is small. As a result, we find that in a standard quantitative business cycle model staggered price setting, by itself, does not generate business cycle fluctuations.
The conventional wisdom is that monetary shocks interact with sticky goods prices to generate the observed volatility and persistence in real exchange rates. We investigate this conventional wisdom in a quantitative model with sticky prices. We find that with preferences as in the real business cycle literature, irrespective of the length of price stickiness, the model necessarily produces only a fraction of the volatility in exchange rates seen in the data. With preferences which are separable in leisure, the model can produce the observed volatility in exchange rates. We also show that long stickiness is necessary to generate the observed persistence. In addition, we show that making asset markets incomplete does not measurably increase either the volatility or persistence of real exchange rates.
Recent empirical work on financial crises documents that crises tend to occur when macroeconomic fundamentals are weak, but that even after conditioning on an exhaustive list of fundamentals, a sizable random component to crises and associated capital flows remains. We develop a model of herd behavior consistent with these observations. Informational frictions together with standard debt default problems lead to volatile capital flows resembling hot money and financial crises. We show that repaying debt during difficult times identifies a government as financially resilient, enhances its reputation and stabilizes capital flows. Bailing out governments deprives resilient countries of this opportunity.
We provide an introduction to optimal fiscal and monetary policy using the primal approach to optimal taxation. We use this approach to address how fiscal and monetary policy should be set over the long run and over the business cycle. We find four substantive lessons for policymaking: Capital income taxes should be high initially and then roughly zero; tax rates on labor and consumption should be roughly constant; state-contingent taxes on assets should be used to provide insurance against adverse shocks; and monetary policy should be conducted so as to keep nominal interest rates close to zero. We begin optimal taxation in a static context. We then develop a general framework to analyze optimal fiscal policy. Finally, we analyze optimal monetary policy in three commonly used models of money: a cash-credit economy, a money-in-the-utility-function economy, and a shopping-time economy.