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The Soft Budget Constraint at 40: Alternative Perspectives on Its Origins

Michael Keren ()

Comparative Economic Studies, 2021, vol. 63, issue 1, No 5, 139-146

Abstract: Abstract The soft budget constraint (SBC) is over 40 years old and may seem too well known by now to need elucidation. In this paper, I discuss its origin and its causes. The concept of the soft budget constraint was coined by János Kornai, but the origin of the phenomenon that the term captures deserves discussion. Here, I ask why the SBC phenomenon came into being. Kornai considers it a manifestation of paternalism toward SOEs by superior bodies that refuse to let them go under due to symbiotic solidarity with their subordinates. I contend that there are stronger reasons, reasons that inhere in the very core of the bureaucratic allocation system—the method of material balances—that cannot allow enterprises to die just because they generate losses.

Keywords: Soviet-type economies; Hardness of budget constraint; Causes of soft budget constraints; Kornai (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P21 P26 P31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1057/s41294-020-00134-z

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