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The Debt Ratio and Sustainable Macroeconomic Policy

Scott T. Fullwiler

Abstract

Neoclassical views on fiscal sustainability are based on several assumptions that are inconsistent with accounting and operational realities of the money system, including dangers of “bond vigilantes” in government debt markets and “printing money” is inherently inflationary. Combining these assumptions with the broader world view of monetary policy as the appropriate sole manager of the macroeconomy, neoclassicals essentially define fiscal sustainability as a policy mix in which fiscal policy “gets out of the way” of “monetary dominance”, defined as the central bank’s ability to independently pursue an “optimal” monetary policy. This paper presents an alternative view consistent with real-world accounting and monetary operations; a policy mix in which fiscal policy has an active role is shown to be a more sustainable one. Perhaps surprisingly, this turns out to also not be subject to the neoclassical fears or concerns of a policy regime of fiscal dominance.

Published on 7 Jul 2016 in World Economic Review No 7, July 2016 – Worldwide Fiscal Crisis: Fact or Fiction?