NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Is Debt Neutral in the Life Cycle Model?

Laurence J. Kotlikoff

NBER Working Paper No. 2053
Issued in October 1986
NBER Program(s):PE

This paper questions the widely accepted view that deficits have real effects in the life cycle model. Standard analyses of deficits within life cycle models treat the government as a dictatorial entity that can effect any intergenerational redistribution it desires. In contrast, this paper drops the assumption of compulsion and models the government as a coalition of self-interested young and old generations whose bargaining determines government decisions. Since each generation is selfish, no generation will voluntarily absorb the debts of another except as a quid pro quo for receiving particular goods or services. Hence, redistribution per se between generations will not arise. Because each generation is ultimately responsible for its own liabilities, deficit finance, while altering the timing of tax receipts, has no economic impact.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2053

Published: What Determines Savings, By Larry Kotlikoff, MIT Press, 1989.

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