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Giuseppe Eusepi and Richard E. Wagner
Antonio de Viti de Marco, accepted David Ricardo’s proposition that an extraordinary tax and a public loan are equivalent. All the same, de Viti’s theory of public debt diverged sharply from Ricardo’s. Ricardo thought effectively in representative agent terms; De Viti did not, and thought instead of macro variables as emerging out of interaction among individuals. Ricardo’s macro framework entailed the self-extinction of public debt due to its representative agent quality. In contrast, de Viti’s micro framework explained that self-extinction depended on the operating properties of the political system in which public debt was generated. Within the theoretical extremum of a system of cooperative democracy, self-extinction was a likely property. Ordinary democratic systems, however, featured continuing competition among elites striving for power. This competition enabled politically dominant groups to pass cost onto others in society, bringing about a de facto form of debt default and not self-extinction.