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The Politics of Fiscal Responses to the Crisis of 2008–2009



The national fiscal responses to the economic crisis of 2008/2009 varied considerably. Some countries reacted with a strong demand stimulus, others intended to slash public expenditures, while a third group pursued mildly expansionary policies. There are strong reasons for governments to pursue a mildly expansionary policy. If governments depart from this default strategy in favor of a significant counter-cyclical policy, they must be able to swiftly make decisions. Therefore, effective use of counter-cyclical policy will be unlikely in cases where lengthy negotiations or significant compromises between governing parties with different views on economic and fiscal policy are likely. Therefore, a major determinant of the expansionary strategy is a unified government, usually in form of a one-party government. If governments opt for pro-cyclical policy in a major economic crisis, they do so because they have few other viable options. In this situation they tend to shift blame to international organizations.