The objective in this paper is to review several theoretical issues associated with fiscal policy and to test these theories via a reduced form real GNP equation using quarterly U.S. data from 1958 through 1966. Theoretical work by Friedman, Holmes and Smith, and others suggest (for different reasons) that fiscal policy may be ineffective. Holmes and Smith point out that increases in taxes may conceivably increase aggregate demand if the demand for money depends on disposable income. Higher taxes shift the IS curve to the left as usual. However, higher taxes reduce disposable income and decrease the demand for money. With a constant money supply, the LM curve shifts to the right and the lower equilibrium interest rate increases aggregate demand. The net effect of the opposite shifts in IS & LM could conceivably be an increase in income. Similarly, lower taxes may conceivably lower equilibrium income. The argument of Friedman and others runs along different lines. They emphasize that any change in government expenditure or change in taxes may temporarily alter real income, but any “pure” fiscal policy must be accompanied by a change in government debt. The larger debt that accompanies a fiscal expansion raises interest rates and eventually reduces private demand. The fiscal expansion can allegedly “crowd out” private expenditure completely so that the net long run effect on real income is zero.
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