This paper provides a simple counterexample to the standard belief that in a world economy in which all countries are small, strategic interactions between policymakers are trivial and thus cooperative and noncooperative government policies coincide. It is well known that this holds for tariff policies. However, this paper demonstrates the result does not apply to government policies generally. Indeed, this paper presents a simple counterexample for the case of fiscal policy. In addition, the paper analyzes how optimally coordinated fiscal policies differ from noncooperative policies. It finds that, relative to optimally coordinated levels, noncooperative government spending can be too high or too low, depending on the sign of a transmission effect which captures the overall effect countries’ actions have on each other.
We show that some classes of sterilized interventions have no effect on equilibrium prices and quantities. The proof does not require complete markets, Ricardian equivalence, monetary neutrality, or the law of one price. Moreover, regressions of exchange rates or interest differentials on variables measuring debt’s currency composition contain no information about the effectiveness of such interventions. Other interventions require changes in monetary and fiscal policy; their effects depend, generally, on the influence of these changes on the economy and not on the intervention alone. In short, sterilized intervention is not, as the portfolio balance approach indicates, an extra policy instrument.
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.
A traditional explanation for why sovereign governments repay debts is that they want to keep a good reputation so they can easily borrow more. Bulow and Rogoff have challenged this explanation. They argue that, in complete information models, government borrowing requires direct legal sanctions. We argue that, in incomplete information models with multiple trust relationships, large amounts of government borrowing can be supported by reputation alone.
We document properties of business cycles in ten countries over the last hundred years, contrasting the behavior of real quantities with that of the price level and the stock of money. Although the magnitude of output fluctuations has varied across countries and periods, relations among variables have been remarkably uniform. Consumption has generally been about as variable as output, and investment substantially more variable, and both have been strongly procyclical. The trade balance has generally been countercyclical. The exception to this regularity is government purchases, which exhibit no systematic cyclical tendency. With respect to the size of output fluctuations, standard deviations are largest between the two world wars. In some countries (notably Australia and Canada) they are substantially larger prior to World War I than after World War II, but in others (notably Japan and the United Kingdom) there is little difference between these periods. Properties of price levels, in contrast, exhibit striking differences between periods. Inflation rates are more persistent after World War II than before, and price level fluctuations are typically procyclical before World War II, countercyclical afterward. We find no general tendency toward increased persistence in money growth rates, but find that fluctuations in money are less highly correlated with output in the postwar period.