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Thomas Sargent on federal bailouts

Posted by
February 3, 2012
in Blog

by  on February 3

In 1789, the political price for our federal constitution included a bailout of the 13 indebted states. But it was by refusing to bail out the states a second time in the 1840s that the United States preserved its federal system, with substantial fiscal independence for state governments. Facing a similar moment, Europe might learn from our experience.

…Appealing to the precedent set by the 1789 bailout, state creditors asked the federal government to bail out the states once again. After an enlightening debate, in the early 1840s Congress declined, so many states repudiated their debts.

In the aftermath of those repudiations, many states rewrote their constitutions to require year-by-year balanced budgets, something they had never done before. As noted, fiscal crises, like the one in Europe today, often produce political rearrangements—at best peaceful ones like these.

There is more here.  If that WSJ link doesn’t work for you, type “Thomas Sargent” into news.google.com.

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