Why Economists Disagree

I suppose there are lots of reason, but one of the key differences (especially regarding the stimulus package), is Ricardian equivalence:

The crucial factor in determining how bond finance affects the economy is whether people recognize what is going to happen over time. If everybody foresees that future taxes will nullify future payments of principal and interest, then bond finance is equivalent to tax finance, and government debt has no effect on anything important. This property is known as “Ricardian equivalence,” after David Ricardo, the economist who first discussed it. If people do not foresee all the future taxes implied by government debt, then they feel wealthier when the debt is issued but poorer in the future when, unexpectedly, they have to pay higher taxes to finance the principal and interest payments. So, what do people expect? Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to discover people’s expectations about taxes, and we have to use other methods to learn the effect of government debt on the economy. Even though economists have been studying this issue for more than twenty years, they have not yet reached a consensus. Direct measures of the effect of debt on economic activity are straightforward in principle but difficult to construct in practice. Overall, though, the evidence favors approximate Ricardian equivalence.

via Government Debt and Deficits: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | Library of Economics and Liberty.


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