Fiscal Policy and the Global Crisis

Graham Bird

Published: March 2016

Up until the global economic crisis at the end of the 2000s an eclectic approach to fiscal policy seemed to have emerged from the long-standing debates that there had been about it. This largely ruled out using fiscal policy to fine tune the economy. Instead macro policy in advanced economies focused on monetary policy within a framework of inflation targeting. In the depths of the recession, however, and with interest rates approaching a zero lower bound, fiscal policy was dramatically resurrected and a broad global consensus formed around fiscal stimulus. The consensus did not last long and sharp disagreements soon re-emerged, in particular with respect to the speed and nature of fiscal consolidation. Why did these changes in the approach to fiscal policy happen and were they appropriate? Does the available empirical evidence allow us to form conclusions about the impact of fiscal policy or is it still a matter of ‘on the one hand…but on the other’? And how might fiscal policy evolve in the light of recent experience? This article examines these questions.

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