Political and Economic Determinants of Budget Deficits in the Industrialdemocracies
56 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2001 Last revised: 9 Jan 2002
Date Written: August 1988
This paper focuses on the management of fiscal deficits and the public debt in the industrial democracies. Given the large deficits in many OECD countries in recent years, and the resulting sharp rise in the public debt, it is important to determine the economic and political forces leading to such large deficits. We find only partial support for the "equilibrium approach to fiscal policy", which assumes that tax rates are set over time in order to minimize the excess burden of taxation. Tax rates do not seem to be smoothed, and budget deficits in many countries in recent years appear to be too large to be explained by appeal to transitory increases in government spending. We suggest that in several countries the slow rate at which the post-'73 fiscal deficits were reduced resulted from the difficulties of political management in coalition governments. There is a clear tendency for larger deficits in countries characterized by a by a short average tenure of government and by the presence of many political parties in a ruling coalition.
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