The Mutualization of Sovereign Debt: Comparing the American Past and the European Present

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Series Details Vol.53, No.5, September 2015, p1110-1125
Publication Date September 2015
ISSN 0021-9886
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Abstract: This study identifies commonalities between two historical incidents of debt assumption – in the United States in 1791 and in present-day Europe. By comparing the interests and behaviour of key players in these two incidents, we find three major parallels: first, in their strategic interactions, parties both for and against debt mutualization raise arguments based on notions of fairness and morality; second, in both historical episodes we find harsh rhetoric levelled against private creditors, who are derided as greedy speculators; third, bargaining is an essential element of the debt assumption process.
Bargaining is directed toward limiting or expanding the scope of debt assumption. Further, bargaining typically leads to some form of conditionality imposed in order to increase the chances of the debts being repaid or to ensure benefits accrue to the parties assuming the debt.

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