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The return of large government budget deficits should encourage us to resume analysis of their effects. Two topics deserving further attention are the importance of correctly modeling the form of intergenerational relationships and clarification of the extent to which deficits crowd out private investment.
This paper presents an overlapping generations model in which children seek to manipulate the size of the end-of-life bequest they receive from the parent – similar to the manipulation observed in the Samaritan's dilemma. I first use numerical simulations to show this intergenerational strategic behavior does not negate the debt neutrality assertions of Ricardian equivalence.
Then, by introducing capital gains and inheritance taxes, I show the crowding out effect of government debt is notably smaller in models with strategic behavior; manipulation by children increases the importance of bequests, which forces parents to save (and bequeath) a larger portion of a debt-financed tax cut. In spite of the neutrality of debt under lump sum taxes, including intergenerational strategic behavior can significantly influence the outcome of government tax policies. Given the restrictive nature of the conditions required for Ricardian equivalence to hold, it may be more useful to measure how near to or far from Ricardian equivalence a particular policy or economy comes rather than simply determining whether or not it holds in that environment.
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