Essays on Fiscal Policy and Political Economy
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis consists of three essays concerned with endogenous fiscal policy and its interaction with political economy constraints. The first essay presented in Chapter 2 examines the cyclical behavior of endogenous government consumption over the business cycle absent a commitment mechanism in a neoclassical economy with Total Factor Productivity (TFP) shocks and investment shocks. Tax rates that finance public consumption are chosen in a time consistent way in a dynamic game between the government and a representative agent that values public goods in his utility. It is found that government consumption set without commitment behaves procyclical in response to the mentioned shocks. The government-consumption-output ratio is mildly procyclical or countercyclical depending on the selected calibration. Particularly, the elasticity of substitution between private and public goods plays an important role. The second essay showed in Chapter 3 extends the model studied in Chapter 2 adding agent heterogeneity in wealth and labor productivity. The aim of this study is to identify how policy outcomes are affected by inequality of households, particularly the median voter's choice of tax rates that finance public goods. For a standard RBC calibration to the U.S. economy the result is a strong procyclical comovement of public consumption with output, and a relatively weak procyclical comovement of the output share of public consumption with output, that becomes stronger with rising inequality. The politico-economic channel induces causality from output to lagged tax rates, therefore after a Hicks neutral productivity shock the median voter tries to delay the increase in the tax rate, such that the increment will take place just after the accumulation of more capital. In the case of equal agents the response is to decrease the tax rate in the first year after the shock. Additionally, the model predicts that the size of government consumption decreases with inequality. The last essay in Chapter 4 presents a stylized model of external sovereign debt that incorporates corruption in the form of rent-seeking groups by which the choice to cooperate or non-cooperate in providing public goods, in extracting rents and in issuing debt, is endogenized. More than one rent-seeking group originates a "tragedy of the commons" over fiscal resources that make the borrower economy to show collective fiscal impatience. External creditors envision that impatience and require higher interest rates for buying bonds, exacerbating the problem of high debt. The high level of interest rates decreases the wealth of the country and endangers its ability to repay the debt. We show that bailout plans, defined as temporary loans with lower than market level interest rates, are not effective in such economies.
PhD in Economics