Debt Stabilization in a Non-Ricardian Economy

Mar 2011 | 542

Authors: Simon Wren-Lewis, Campbell Leith and Ioana Moldovan


In models with a representative infinitely lived household, modern versions of tax smoothing imply that the steady-state of government debt should follow a random walk.  This is unlikely to be the case in OLG economies, where the equilibrium interest rate may differ from the policy-maker's rate of time preference such that it may be optimal to reduce debt today to reduce distortionary taxation in the future.  Moreover, the level of the capital stock (and therefore output and consumption) in these economies is likely to be sub-optimally low, and reducing government debt will 'crowd in' additional capital.  Using an elaborated version of the model of perpetual youth developed by Blanchard (1985) and Yaari (1985), we derive the optimal steady state level of government assets.  We show how and why this level of government assets falls short of the level of debt that achieves the optimal capital stock and the level that eliminates income taxes.

JEL Codes: E21, E32, E63

Keywords: Non-Ricardian consumers, Macroeconomic stability, Distortionary taxes


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