Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


Working Paper Number

WP #03012, October 2001 revised March 2003 revised March 2004; Old working paper #10252


Central banks typically find it difficult to turn off the "political pressure valve". This has important consequences for the types of monetary policies they implement. This paper presents an analysis of how political factors may come into play in the equilibrium determination of inflation. We employ a standard overlapping generations model with heterogeneous young-age endowments, and a government that funds an exogenous spending via a combination of nondistortionary income taxes and the inflation tax. Agents have access to two stores of value: fiat money and an inflation-shielded, yet costly, asset. The model predicts that the relationship between elected reliance on the inflation tax (for revenue) and income inequality is non-monotonic; in particular, the reliance on seigniorage may decrease as income inequality rises above a threshold. We find robust empirical backing for this hypothesis from a cross-section of countries.

Publication Status

Published in The Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 38 no. 2 (May 2005): 500-519.

JEL Classification

E40, E5, P16

File Format



27 pages

File Function

This version: March 2004 (First version: October 2001)

Included in

Economics Commons