<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The conflict over which policy tool to use can be frustrating to those who want to categorize economics as “liberal” or “conservative,” or who want to use economic models to argue against their political opponents. But the AD–AS model can be used both by advocates of smaller government, who seek to reduce taxes and government spending, and by advocates of bigger government, who seek to raise taxes and government spending. Economic studies of specific taxing and spending programs can help to inform decisions about whether taxes or spending should be changed, and in what ways. Ultimately, decisions about whether to use tax or spending mechanisms to implement macroeconomic policy is, in part, a political decision rather than a purely economic one.

Contractionary fiscal policy

Fiscal policy can also contribute to pushing aggregate demand beyond potential GDP in a way that leads to inflation. As shown in [link] , a very large budget deficit pushes up aggregate demand, so that the intersection of aggregate demand (AD 0 ) and aggregate supply (SRAS 0 ) occurs at equilibrium E 0 , which is an output level above potential GDP. This is sometimes known as an “overheating economy” where demand is so high that there is upward pressure on wages and prices, causing inflation. In this situation, contractionary fiscal policy involving federal spending cuts or tax increases can help to reduce the upward pressure on the price level by shifting aggregate demand to the left, to AD 1 , and causing the new equilibrium E 1 to be at potential GDP, where aggregate demand intersects the LRAS curve.

A contractionary fiscal policy

The graph shows two aggregate demand curves that each intersect with an aggregate supply curve. Aggregate demand curve (AD sub 1) intersects with both the aggregate supply curve (AS sub 0) as well as the potential GDP line.
The economy starts at the equilibrium quantity of output Y 0 , which is above potential GDP. The extremely high level of aggregate demand will generate inflationary increases in the price level. A contractionary fiscal policy can shift aggregate demand down from AD 0 to AD 1 , leading to a new equilibrium output E 1 , which occurs at potential GDP, where AD1 intersects the LRAS curve.

Again, the AD–AS model does not dictate how this contractionary fiscal policy is to be carried out. Some may prefer spending cuts; others may prefer tax increases; still others may say that it depends on the specific situation. The model only argues that, in this situation, aggregate demand needs to be reduced.

Key concepts and summary

Expansionary fiscal policy increases the level of aggregate demand, either through increases in government spending or through reductions in taxes. Expansionary fiscal policy is most appropriate when an economy is in recession and producing below its potential GDP. Contractionary fiscal policy decreases the level of aggregate demand, either through cuts in government spending or increases in taxes. Contractionary fiscal policy is most appropriate when an economy is producing above its potential GDP.


Specify whether expansionary or contractionary fiscal policy would seem to be most appropriate in response to each of the situations below and sketch a diagram using aggregate demand and aggregate supply curves to illustrate your answer:

  1. A recession.
  2. A stock market collapse that hurts consumer and business confidence.
  3. Extremely rapid growth of exports.
  4. Rising inflation.
  5. A rise in the natural rate of unemployment.
  6. A rise in oil prices.
Got questions? Get instant answers now!


Alesina, Alberto, and Francesco Giavazzi. Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis (National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report) . Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2013.

Martin, Fernando M. “Fiscal Policy in the Great Recession and Lessons from the Past.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Economic Synopses . no. 1 (2012). http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/es/12/ES_2012-01-06.pdf.

Bivens, Josh, Andrew Fieldhouse, and Heidi Shierholz. “From Free-fall to Stagnation: Five Years After the Start of the Great Recession, Extraordinary Policy Measures Are Still Needed, But Are Not Forthcoming.” Economic Policy Institute . Last modified February 14, 2013. http://www.epi.org/publication/bp355-five-years-after-start-of-great-recession/.

Lucking, Brian, and Dan Wilson. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, “FRBSF Economic Letter—U.S. Fiscal Policy: Headwind or Tailwind?” Last modified July 2, 2012. http://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2012/july/us-fiscal-policy/.

Greenstone, Michael, and Adam Looney. Brookings. “The Role of Fiscal Stimulus in the Ongoing Recovery.” Last modified July 6, 2012. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/jobs/posts/2012/07/06-jobs-greenstone-looney.

Questions & Answers

why should a firm close down when it's unable to pay it's variable cost?
what is oligopolistic competitive market?
exchange of goods and services between countries is call
Hosea Reply
foreign trade
what is constant opportunity cost
Tiffany Reply
Constant opportunity cost means the value of sacrifice remains constant in every step.
Gross Domestic Product GDP
Yusuf Reply
what is g d p
Jayapal Reply
gross daily performance
How best can a poor country respond to an economic crisis , what does it have to sacrifice.
Bah Reply
they should pay tax as progressive system and should make sacrifice for taxation of their income and land etc
how have the nations tries to solve the problem of scarcity in their economies?
Amani Reply
total concentration on to reduce the per unit cost of commodity by technically or whatever
explain what will happen to producer of green coconut now that we have to lockdown in the kingdom of tonga
Tuha Reply
the demand for coconut will decrease and supply increases which result in the decrease in the price of coconut and the coconut will be more elastic
tonga is producing more long run economic good explain the meaning of the statement and its implication on the tonga economy
Tuha Reply
Demand is the various quantities of goods and services that consumer(s)are willing and able to purchase at a price within a time
Muhammad Reply
What is demand
Mc Reply
demand relates with the need of people for their satisfaction.
demand is de amount of goods and services a consumer us willing to purchase at a given price over a given period of time
riDemand is the amount of good and services which consumers are willing and able to buy at a particular peroid of time and at a given price
Yes that is the tire thing
Demand is the quantity of goods and services which consumers are willing and able to purchase at a given price over a period of time
simply , Demand is the sum up of 1)- desire of the commodity 2)- purchasing power for that commodity
demand is the amount of goods and service wen consumers are willing and able to buy them at a give time
Distinguish between cross elasticity and income elasticity of demand
Ruth Reply
Distinguish between cross elasticity and income elasticity of demand
if change in the demand of the commodity with respect to change in demand of the substitute or other product called cross elasticity
and. if change in the demand of the commodity due to change in the income . called income elasticity
Cross elasticity of demand is the degree of responsiveness of quantity demanded of a commodity to a small change in price of another commodity whiles Income elasticity of demand is the degree of responsiveness of quantity demanded of a commodity to a small change in income of it's consumers
but these are book wordings
income elasticity of demand shows how quantity demanded changes due to changes in income on the other hand cross elasticity refers to how the quantity demanded of a particular good alers given a change in the price of another good.
what is the competitive demand
Adiza Reply
Competitive demand are those commodity dat are competitive in nature e.g the close up and my my toothpaste the increase in price of close up may bring abt decrease in demand of it and it will serve as increase in purchase of my my
With regards to coal shortage and manicipal debts the what form of intervention do you think Eskom can put in place.
kedibone Reply
economic growth of Bhutan
Nima Reply
please, explain all the mathematics terms used in economics
The answer is: little more than high school algebra and graphs.

Get the best Principles of economics course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Principles of economics' conversation and receive update notifications?