Expansionary contractions and fiscal free lunches: too good to be true

Richard McManus, Fatma Gulcin Ozkan, Dawid Trzeciakiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper builds a framework to jointly examine the possibilities of both expansionary fiscal contractions (austerity increasing output) and fiscal free lunches (expansions reducing government debt), arguments which in recent debates have been supported by the austerity and stimulus camps, respectively. We propose a new metric quantifying the budgetary implications of fiscal action, a key aspect of fiscal policy particularly at the monetary zero lower bound. We find that austerity needs to be highly persistent and credible in order to be expansionary, and stimulus needs to be temporary, responsive, and well-targeted in order to lower debt. We conclude that neither is likely, especially during periods of economic distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-54
Number of pages23
JournalScandinavian Journal of Economics
Issue number1
Early online date11 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018

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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Austerity versus stimulus
  • fiscal policy
  • zero lower bound

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