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Edited by Giuseppe Eusepi and Richard E. Wagner

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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.

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Introduction and overview

Using Foreign Aid to Delegate Global Security

Jean-Paul Azam and Véronique Thelen

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Giuseppe Eusepi and Richard E. Wagner

The book’s theme is an elaboration and refinement of the early-twentieth century orientation toward public debt that Antonio de Viti de Marco set forth. As the book’s title asserts, public debt is a misnomer for a democratic scheme of political economy. To declare a democratic polity to be indebted is akin to observing a grin without a cat, to recall Dennis Robertson’s view of Keynes’s liquidity preference theory. While the entire book develops this claim, this chapter explains how standard macro theories of various types are more myth than reality, and with the mythology obscuring the realities of the domination-subordination relationships that suffuse democratic regimes.

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Richard M. Salsman

Not until the Enlightenment and the financial revolution in the eighteenth century did sovereigns borrow publicly, regularly, and responsibly. Constitutionalism, the rule of law, ethical acceptance of lending, and more respect for sanctity of contract increased creditors’ willingness to lend. Three centuries of data show that public leverage – the ratio of public debt to GDP – was highest at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and World War II. Public leverage since 1980 has increased steadily for many sovereigns, but for most of them leverage is still far below prior peaks. The multi-decade rise in public leverage reflects burgeoning welfare states but also coincides with an anomalous decline in public borrowing costs, due mainly to repressive central bank policies.

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Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

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Richard E. Wagner

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Richard E. Wagner

This chapter explores some issues regarding the scholarly location of what is often described as the Virginia tradition in political economy. While the Virginia tradition originated during the neoclassical period and its widespread use of demonstrable reasoning, the home of the tradition resides in the classical tradition and its grounding in plausible reasoning. While the classical-neoclassical divide is commonly based on the explanation of prices and allocations, this is a sensible classificatory scheme only from within the neoclassical tradition. By contrast, scholarship within the spirit of Virginia political economy is more at home with the classical placement of the institutions of human governance and interaction into the analytical foreground, with prices and allocations being relegated to the background.
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Gunnar L.H. Svendsen and Gert T. Svendsen

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Richard E. Wagner