Economics MA(SocSci)/BAcc/BSc/MA

Government Debt and the Macroeconomy ECON4033

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: Adam Smith Business School
  • Credits: 15
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course seeks to explore both the causes and consequences of the high levels of government debt observed in many developed economies in recent years.


This course will not be offered in every session. Please refer to the Business School website for details of Honours courses available in the current session.

Lectures: 10 x 2-hour lectures

Additional 2 hours revision lecture outside normal hours.


Summative assessment comprises coursework (30%) and a 2-hour degree examination (70%)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to

■ review the analytics of the government budget constraint and in doing so, reveal the potential interactions between monetary and fiscal policy which are often ignored.

■ critically discuss the implications of government debt for optimal policy, firstly by exploring the benchmark of Ricardian Equivalence, before considering the policy of tax smoothing which applies in an environment where taxes are distortionary. 

■ analyse these basic theoretical results with the empirical results on the real effects of fiscal policy, particularly the debate on the impact on private consumption of public consumption and whether or not fiscal consolidation can result in a boom. 

■ critically discuss the political economy of budget deficits and why government debt may be sub-optimally high as a result of imperfections in the political/policymaking process.

■ assess the appropriate response to the currently high levels of government debt observed in many developed economies.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1.Analyse the analytics of the government's budget constraint.
2.Analyse the interactions between monetary and fiscal policy.

3.Explain and evaluate the benchmark theories of Ricardian Equivalence and Tax Smoothing.

4.Outline and assess new political economy explanations of the
postwar increase in government debt and its distribution across economies.
5.Describe and explain the empirical evidence on the macroeconomic effects of fiscal policy and the macroeconomic consequences of fiscal consolidations.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits