The social value of risk-free government debt
Abstract: This paper considers whether eliminating the stock of government debt outstanding would reduce welfare. It models an economy with three assets?currency, government bonds, and storage, a transactions role for money, and a demand for liquidity and thus a role for banks. The Friedman rule is not optimal in this economy, so there is potentially a role for interest-bearing, risk-free government bonds. Because the government must raise enough revenue to meet its interest obligations on any bonds outstanding, the social value of government debt hinges on whether the benefits from greater portfolio diversification outweigh the costs associated with the necessary revenue-raising efforts. The paper shows that a positive stock of government debt is optimal only if interest payments on the debt are financed via money creation, agents are not too risk averse, there is a primary government budget deficit, and the economy is operating on the bad side of the Laffer curve. But under these conditions, welfare would be even higher if monetary policy were conducted to put the economy on the good side of the Laffer curve and there were no government bonds outstanding. Thus, there is little support for keeping a stock of interest-bearing, risk-free government debt outstanding.
File(s): File format is application/pdf https://www.kansascityfed.org/documents/5394/pdf-RWP03-02.pdf
Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Part of Series: Research Working Paper
Publication Date: 2003
Number: RWP 03-02