Large public debts are not always bad for an economy, just as efforts to rein them in are not always beneficial.
The focus on a balanced budget in the United States, for example, has led some elements of the Republican Party to block normal functions of state and even federal authorities, supposedly in the name of fiscal discipline. Likewise, the eurozone’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has been held back by strict fiscal rules that limit member countries’ fiscal deficits to 3% of GDP.
John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, which argued for active fiscal policies, was published in 1936. Forty years later, a counterrevolution took hold, reflecting sharp criticism of fiscal activism. After another 40 years, Keynes’ key idea is back, in the form of the FTPL (fiscal theory of the price level). This may be old wine in a new bottle, but old wine often rewards those who are willing to taste it.