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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

Ben Reply
what is the determination of aggregate demand?
Maddy Reply
classical dichotomy and its components?
Romaisa Reply
what will happen to the demand curve when there is an inflation in an economy
Hamza Reply
From my view, I think the demand curve will shift inwards.
now it depends on what kind of inflation it is, depending on the type of inflation the movement of the demand curve can be stated.
yes it depends on the cause for inflation. if it caused by maybe an increase in money supply, the effect is neutral in the long term, therefore there are no effects on total output in the economy, except for an increase in price
but short term in general i think you could expect the demand curve to shift inwards as consumers experience a decrease in real income
source of capital for the sole trader
Dogbey Reply
borrowing from relatives, government grants, bank loans, personal savings, credit card etc.
Suppose you are holding 2000 in a checking account and the price level decrease by 20 %how much it will affect your purchasing power and why
Iqra Reply
Hi Iqra, will answer your question soon.
2000*0.2= 400 2000-400= 1600
a price level decrease is deflation. it means you'll be able to afford to buy more with your 2000 and your real income becomes 2000÷(100-20)=2500
the amount will decrease to 1600 and you can't be able to buy over this amount
As an economist student discuss how the pandemic covid19 can affect the aggregate demand and aggregate supply thereby leading to decrease in GDP and standard of living of citizens of nigeria
Fadila Reply
hi how can you help me?
qusai Reply
can you send me the notes
hello is what are you talking about?
unemployment and low inflation    .
Abdirizaq Reply
Structure/Organization Of The Federal Reserve
sorry guys in macroeconomics what is different between inflation and intrest rate? please example for pandemic related maybe?
Is this Aap for class 11 and 12 only not for graduation?
ankit Reply
yeah like for du MA entrance
Aree i m also asking
for du MA entrance. u shouldn't rely on app. Go for SAURABH SIR notes. available on flipkart.
ohh thanks
what is inflation
Bright Reply
hike in price
situation of rise in price with the fall in purchasing power of money
cycle of corruption
rise in price of a Nation economy in terms of trade
what is distruptive international trade?
meaning of inflation
Jayakumar Reply
increase in general prices level in an economy.
increase in general price level
The fall in standard of living because goods and services become expensive.
what is value added and how is it used in calculating GDP
Benedicta Reply
value added is final price of output minus cost of production. For example, let's say you make a shirt with raw materials that cost $20, and then sell the shirt for $35 added value would be 35-20=15. In calculating GDP, it is used to avoid double counting goods. Exp. eggs individually and in bread.
as the price of tickets rises from $200 to $250, what is the price elasticity of demand for business travelers, vacationers using midpoint method
Buumba Reply
@jb how do uget $300
It means you are measuring the cost against availability.
Explain how income taxes and transfer payments are used to stabilize the economy
Nakagwa Reply
reduce demand on scarce resources by reducing money supply.

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