Why is Fiscal Policy often Procyclical?

Produced by: 
Harvard University
Available from: 
September 2008
Paper author(s): 
Alberto Alesina
Guido Tabellini
Filipe R. Campante
Fiscal Policy - Public and Welfare Economics

Fiscal policy is procyclical in many developing countries. We explain this policy failure with a political agency problem. Procyclicality is driven by voters who seek to “starve the Leviathan” to reduce political rents. Voters observe the state of the economy but not the rents appropriated by corrupt governments. When they observe a boom, voters optimally demand more public goods or lower taxes, and this induces a procyclical bias in fiscal policy. The empirical evidence is consistent with this explanation: Procyclicality of fiscal policy is more pronounced in more corrupt democracies.


Research section: 
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