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PE/PI Workshop: Cameron Tilley (Duke)

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Wednesday, October 04, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Cameron Tilley (Duke) will present his talk, "The Miraculous Old-Time Fiscal Religion." See abstract below.

Buchanan and Wagner ([1977] 2000) explain why democratic politicians have a strong incentive to run large deficits year after year. However, during much of the country's history, the U.S. federal budget was close to essentially balanced. Why? Buchanan and Wagner claim prior to the Keynesian Revolution, American politicians believed in an old-time fiscal religion that favored balanced budgets and surpluses, justifying deficits only in times of crisis. While much research has been done on the effects of deficit spending, little has been done to empirically identify a shift in a balanced budget norm. This paper fills this gap by positing a theory of norm contestation where discussion of a norm increases when violations are frequent. This paper uses speeches from the 43rd to the 111th Congresses as data to discover if a balanced budget norm went through a phase of contestation. The paper provides insight not only into the issue of deficits but also into the important role norms play in political institutions and political decision-making, along with a way to identify historical norm shifts.

Contact: Eddy Malesky