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Does the Design of a Fiscal Rule Matter for Welfare?

Stuart Landon () and Constance Smith ()

No 2017-2, Working Papers from University of Alberta, Department of Economics

Abstract: This study uses Monte Carlo methods to examine the impact on welfare of several types of commonly used fiscal rules. The simulations employ an expected intertemporal welfare function and the parameters from a three-variable structural VAR estimated using data for sixteen European countries. The VAR captures the potential interaction effects between output, government spending and revenue. We find welfare gains from many, but not all, of the fiscal rules. The best rules target a zero structural deficit and cause government spending volatility to fall by about one third. However, a simple rule, where government expenditure is set equal to a one-period ahead forecast of revenue, performs almost as well. In particular, this simple rule yields a welfare gain and a reduction in volatility similar to that of the more complicated zero structural deficit rule adopted by Switzerland and several other countries. Balanced budget rules perform less well than rules that target the structural deficit. A rule that keeps real per capita government spending equal to a constant—a type of rule adopted by some U.S. states—yields relatively low welfare and often leads to significant debt accumulation. These results highlight the importance of the appropriate design of a fiscal rule.

Keywords: fiscal rules; fiscal policy; stabilization; government spending; European economic policy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E61 E62 E63 H61 H62 H63 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac and nep-pbe
Date: 2017-01-30
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