Fiscal Policy with Limited-Time Commitment

59 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2016 Last revised: 14 Mar 2017

Alex Clymo

University of Amsterdam

Andrea Lanteri

Duke University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 2017


We consider models where the Ramsey-optimal fiscal policy under Full Commitment (FC) is time inconsistent and define a new notion of optimal policy, Limited-Time Commitment (LTC). Successive governments can commit to future plans over a finite horizon. We provide an intuitive sufficient condition on the mapping from finite policy sequences to allocations, such that LTC and FC lead to the same outcomes. We then show that this condition is verified in commonly used models of fiscal policy, allowing FC Ramsey plans to be supported with a finite commitment horizon (often a single period). The required degree of commitment depends on the economic environment. In economies without capital, the minimum degree of commitment required is given by the government debt maturity. In economies with capital, the required commitment is given by the horizon over which the budget has to be balanced. Hence, our results provide a potential rationale for balanced-budget rules, which alleviate the consequences of limited commitment. Finally, we consider an economy where the equivalence between LTC and FC fails and show numerically that a constitutional reform imposing a single year of commitment to capital taxes provides substantial welfare gains relative to the No-Commitment policy, even accounting for transitional dynamics.

Keywords: Optimal fiscal policy; time-inconsistency; limited commitment

Suggested Citation

Clymo, Alex and Lanteri, Andrea, Fiscal Policy with Limited-Time Commitment (March 1, 2017). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 223. Available at SSRN: or

Alex Clymo

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB

Andrea Lanteri (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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