Fiscal policy: Wikis


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In economics, fiscal policy is the use of government spending and revenue collection to influence the economy.[1]

Fiscal policy can be contrasted with the other main type of economic policy, monetary policy, which attempts to stabilize the economy by controlling interest rates and the supply of money. The two main instruments of fiscal policy are government spending and taxation. Changes in the level and composition of taxation and government spending can impact on the following variables in the economy:

  • Aggregate demand and the level of economic activity;
  • The pattern of resource allocation;
  • The distribution of income.

Fiscal policy refers to the overall effect of the budget outcome on economic activity. The three possible stances of fiscal policy are neutral, expansionary, and contractionary:

  • A neutral stance of fiscal policy implies a balanced budget where G = T (Government spending = Tax revenue). Government spending is fully funded by tax revenue and overall the budget outcome has a neutral effect on the level of economic activity.
  • An expansionary stance of fiscal policy involves a net increase in government spending (G > T) through rises in government spending, a fall in taxation revenue, or a combination of the two. This will lead to a larger budget deficit or a smaller budget surplus than the government previously had, or a deficit if the government previously had a balanced budget. Expansionary fiscal policy is usually associated with a budget deficit.
  • A contractionary fiscal policy (G < T) occurs when net government spending is reduced either through higher taxation revenue, reduced government spending, or a combination of the two. This would lead to a lower budget deficit or a larger surplus than the government previously had, or a surplus if the government previously had a balanced budget. Contractionary fiscal policy is usually associated with a surplus.

The idea of using fiscal policy to combat recessions was introduced by John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s, partly as a response to the Great Depression.


Methods of funding

Governments spend money on a wide variety of things, from the military and police to services like education and healthcare, as well as transfer payments such as welfare benefits.

This expenditure can be funded in a number of different ways:


Funding the deficit

A fiscal deficit is often funded by issuing bonds, like treasury bills or consols. These pay interest, either for a fixed period or indefinitely. If the interest and capital repayments are too large, a nation may default on its debts, usually to foreign creditors.

Consuming the surplus

A fiscal surplus is often saved for future use, and may be invested in local (same currency) financial instruments, until needed. When income from taxation or other sources falls, as during an economic slump, reserves allow spending to continue at the same rate, without incurring additional debt.

Economic effects of fiscal policy

Governments use fiscal policy to influence the level of aggregate demand in the economy, in an effort to achieve economic objectives of price stability, full employment, and economic growth. Keynesian economics suggests that adjusting government spending and tax rates are the best ways to stimulate aggregate demand. This can be used in times of recession or low economic activity as an essential tool for building the framework for strong economic growth and working toward full employment. The government can implement these deficit-spending policies to stimulate trade due to its size and prestige. In theory, these deficits would be paid for by an expanded economy during the boom that would follow; this was the reasoning behind the New Deal.

Governments can use budget surplus to do two things: to slow the pace of strong economic growth, and to stabilize prices when inflation is too high. Keynesian theory posits that removing funds from the economy will reduce levels of aggregate demand and contract the economy, thus stabilizing prices.

Some classical and neoclassical economists argue that fiscal policy can have no stimulus effect; this is known as the Treasury View, which Keynesian economics rejects. The Treasury View refers to the theoretical positions of classical economists in the British Treasury, who opposed Keynes' call in the 1930s for fiscal stimulus. The same general argument has been repeated by neoclassical economists up to the present. From their point of view, when government runs a budget deficit, funds will need to come from public borrowing (the issue of government bonds), overseas borrowing, or the printing of new money. When governments fund a deficit with the release of government bonds, interest rates can increase across the market. This is because government borrowing creates higher demand for credit in the financial markets, causing a lower aggregate demand (AD), contrary to the objective of a budget deficit. This concept is called crowding out; it is a "sister" of monetary policy.

In the classical view, fiscal policy also decreases net exports, which has a mitigating effect on national output and income. When government borrowing increases interest rates it attracts foreign capital from foreign investors. This is because, all other things being equal, the bonds issued from a country executing expansionary fiscal policy now offer a higher rate of return. In other words, companies wanting to finance projects must compete with their government for capital so they offer higher rates of return. To purchase bonds originating from a certain country, foreign investors must obtain that country's currency. Therefore, when foreign capital flows into the country undergoing fiscal expansion, demand for that country's currency increases. The increased demand causes that country's currency to appreciate. Once the currency appreciates, goods originating from that country now cost more to foreigners than they did before and foreign goods now cost less than they did before. Consequently, exports decrease and imports increase.[2]

Other possible problems with fiscal stimulus include the time lag between the implementation of the policy and detectable effects in the economy, and inflationary effects driven by increased demand. In theory, fiscal stimulus does not cause inflation when it uses resources that would have otherwise been idle. For instance, if a fiscal stimulus employs a worker who otherwise would have been unemployed, there is no inflationary effect; however, if the stimulus employs a worker who otherwise would have had a job, the stimulus is increasing demand while labor supply remains fixed, leading to inflation.

See also


  1. ^ Sullivan, arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 387. ISBN 0-13-063085-3.  
  2. ^


  • Heyne, P. T., Boettke, P. J., Prychitko, D. L. (2002): The Economic Way of Thinking (10th ed). Prentice Hall.

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