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

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

2
MEASURING THE SIZE AND GROWTH OF GOVERNMENT

INTRODUCTION

Many claims are made about the excessive size and unnecessary growth of government, especially claims about its dramatic expansion in the post-World War II era. But how do we measure government size and growth? When speaking of the benefits or liabilities of big government, individuals may be referring to many different characteristics of the public sector, including the burden of taxes to support the public sector, the regulatory burden of government, the size of the public budget, the number of public sector employees, and the number of government programs and agencies ( Rose 1984; 1983). These many characteristics have all been used, at one time or another, as indicators of the underlying phenomenon of big government and its intrusiveness in our daily lives.

Very likely, however, not one of these indicators fully captures what we mean by big government. Ideally, we would have a summative measure of the concept -- intrusiveness of government in private activities -- that would capture all of these dimensions of government activity. But constructing such an index would assume that the different dimensions each reflect the same concept -- size of government -- and this assumption is questionable. For example, many regulations adopted by government that have substantial effects on the economy (for example, civil rights and affirmative action policies) involve only a nominal amount of government expenditure. Moreover, as the existence of deficit financing demonstrates, government taxation does not necessarily match government spending. To a large degree, the spending and revenue

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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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