Understanding United States Government Growth: An Empirical Analysis of the Postwar Era

By William D. Berry; David Lowery | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The research program of which this book is a major part began, as many research programs do, with a student's question. When one of us was presenting some of the many explanations of the growth of the public sector in the postwar period to a class on public budgeting, a student asked if we had identified which one of these models was best able to account for government growth. Although it was a simple question, we had no simple answer. There were an inordinately large number of competing hypotheses in the relevant theoretical literature. And nearly all these hypotheses had received at least some empirical support. Indeed, in our review of literature, the most accurate statement on the state of knowledge about government growth was Larkey, Stolp, and Winer ( 1981, p. 202) comment that they were "impressed with how much has been written and how little is known about why government grows."

We take a step toward resolving this confusion with the work presented in this book. Quite simply, we confront a number of the extant accounts of public sector expansion with data, using better measures of the size of government than commonly found in the literature. Finding that most of the existing explanations do not survive that encounter, we develop and test two alternative theories of government growth.

These two theories -- the responsive and excessive government interpretations -- were chosen so that we could use our empirical analysis to comment on the important normative and policy issues that give this topic such immediacy. The public sector is under attack to a degree never experienced since the advent of "big government" in the 1930s. Such varied but related events as Proposition 13, "Reaganomics," and "Gramm-Rudman-Hollings" represent a profound set of challenges to an expanding public sector. And importantly, there is at least an implicit "theory" of government growth behind the new antigovernment ideology, a theory asserting that the causes of public sector expansion lie within the public sector. With the design of our responsive and excessive government models of public sector size, we attempt to pit that implicit theory against an older, alternative account that views government expansion as an outgrowth of changing citizen preferences and socioeconomic needs. Using the tools of econometric analysis, we test the two models using data on U.S. government size over the postwar era, 1948-1982.

-xiii-

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Understanding United States Government Growth: An Empirical Analysis of the Postwar Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • Preface xiii
  • I GOVERNMENT GROWTH: MEASUREMENT, CONSEQUENCES AND CAUSES 1
  • I the Problem of Government Growth 3
  • 2: MEASURING THE SIZE AND GROWTH OF GOVERNMENT 15
  • II: GOVERNMENT GROWTH 37
  • 3: EXPLANATIONS OF GOVERNMENT GROWTH 39
  • 4: TESTING THE EXPLANATIONS 65
  • III A DISAGGREGATED ANALYSIS OF GOVERNMENT GRONWH 95
  • 5: GROWTH IN THE COST OF GOVERNMENT 97
  • 6: GROWTH IN THE SCOPE OF GOVERNMENT PURCHASES 114
  • 7: GROWTH IN THE SCOPE OF GOVERNMENT TRANSFERS 156
  • IV TOWARD A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF GOVERNMENT GROWTH 179
  • 8: GOVERNMENT GROWTH 181
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 207
  • ABOUT THE AUTHORS 213
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