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

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

I
THE PROBLEM OF GOVERNMENT GROWTH

INTRODUCTION

President Reagan expressed the underlying theme of his new administration when, in his 1981 inaugural address, he declared, "it is time to check and reverse the growth of government" ( Hartman 1982, p. 266). Such concern for the dangers of excessive government is hardly new to the rhetoric of U.S. politics, but the Reagan administration turned with unusual zeal to the task of cutting the domestic budget and scaling back the regulatory burden of the public sector ( Palmer and Sawhill 1982; 1984). Unlike past administrations, the rhetoric of scaling back government activity led to action. As Palmer and Sawhill ( 1984, p. 2) note, "The Reagan administration, more than most others, has had a clear vision of what it was trying to accomplish. Its continuing objective . . . [has] been to reduce the size and influence of government."

This "clear vision" arises from the confluence of traditional libertarian perspectives on the relationship between government and the market and the newer but rapidly growing "public choice" literature on the operation of government and politics. The former provides the critical standards for evaluating the size of government but is woefully lacking in positivist statements about the operation and dynamics of the public sector ( Stigler 1982, pp. 136-45). Consequently, the traditional libertarian philosophy tells us much more about what government should not do than about what it actually does. In contrast, public choice theory ( Buchanan 1975; Mueller 1979) applies the analytical tools used

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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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