Prepared for the symposium, ‘Government Debt in Democracies: Causes, Effects, and Limits', 30 November and 1 December 2012, sponsored by the Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Freie Universität Berlin. The Hoover Institution supported this research. It is also part of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Economic Fluctuations and Growth program. I am grateful to Arvind Krishnamurthy, my discussant Carl Christian von Weizsäcker and participants in the symposium for helpful comments.
Fiscal Stability of High-Debt Nations under Volatile Economic Conditions†
Article first published online: 19 JUL 2013
© 2013 The Author German Economic Review © 2013 Verein für Socialpolitik
German Economic Review
Special Issue: Special Issue on Government Debt in Democracies: Causes, Effects, and Limits
Volume 15, Issue 1, pages 4–22, February 2014
How to Cite
Hall, R. E. (2014), Fiscal Stability of High-Debt Nations under Volatile Economic Conditions. German Economic Review, 15: 4–22. doi: 10.1111/geer.12025
- Issue published online: 23 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 19 JUL 2013
- National debt;
- fiscal policy
Using a recursive empirical model of the real interest rate, GDP growth and the primary government deficit in the United States, I solve for the ergodic distribution of the debt/GDP ratio. If such a distribution exists, the government is satisfying its intertemporal budget constraint. One key finding is that historical fiscal policy would bring the current high-debt ratio back to its normal level of 0.35 over the coming decade. Forecasts of continuing increases in the ratio over the decade make the implicit assumption that fiscal policy has shifted dramatically. In the variant of the model that matches the forecast, the government would not satisfy its intertemporal budget constraint if the policy was permanent. The willingness of investors to hold US government debt implies a belief that the high-deficit policy is transitory.