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

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

3
EXPLANATIONS OF GOVERNMENT GROWTH

THE MANY CAUSES OF PUBLIC SECTOR EXPANSION

Although President Reagan's efforts to constrain the perceived growth of the public sector are only several years old, efforts to understand the process of government growth go back more than a century, to Wagner's Law, first propounded in 1877. Since then, numerous explanations of government growth have been developed ( Tarschys 1975; Borcherding 1977b; Larkey, Stolp, and Winer 1981). Some of these explanations are mutually supporting while others are totally inconsistent with one another. Moreover, the empirical evidence marshalled in support of the many explanations ranges from the extremely extensive -- as in the case of Wagner's Law -- to little or none -- as in the case of the "demonstration effect" explanation of government growth. Others are virtually untestable given their formulation. Niskanen's "bureau information monopoly" model, for example, is extremely difficult to test empirically in anything approximating a direct manner ( Musgrave 1981, p. 88). Whatever their support, however, these explanations represent the many ways scholars have tried to account for the growth of government. In this chapter, we survey the many explanations and their empirical support.

In developing the survey, we employ an important distinction among the many explanations first suggested by Buchanan ( 1977), the distinction between responsive government and excessive government explanations of public sector expansion. This distinction is important because the two types of interpretations identify very different sources of

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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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