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fiscal policy

What determines the level of economic activity in a society? In other words, what determines how many goods and services a nation actually produces? What determines how many jobs are available in an economy? What determines a nation’s standard of living? What causes the economy to speed up or slow down? What causes firms to hire more workers or to lay workers off? Finally, what causes the economy to grow over the long term?

An economy’s macroeconomic health can be defined by a number of goals: growth in the standard of living, low unemployment, and low inflation, to name the most important. How can macroeconomic policy be used to pursue these goals? Monetary policy, which involves policies that affect bank lending, interest rates, and financial capital markets, is conducted by a nation’s central bank. For the United States, this is the Federal Reserve. Fiscal policy, which involves government spending and taxes, is determined by a nation’s legislative body. For the United States, this is the Congress and the executive branch, which originates the federal budget. These are the main tools the government has to work with. Americans tend to expect that government can fix whatever economic problems we encounter, but to what extent is that expectation realistic? These are just some of the issues that will be explored in the macroeconomic chapters of this book.