Relationships Between Government Size and Economic Growth: Japan's Government Reforms and Evidence from OECD
Terasawa, Katsuaki L.
Gates, William R.
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This paper examines the relationship between government size and economic growth of 21 industrialized countries. Government size is measured by government final consumption expenditures and transfer payments. The relationship between government consumption is expected to increase GDP growth for developing countries, and reduce it for industrialized countries. Government consumption can contribute to increased economic growth. However, government consumption is likely to expand beyond an efficient level in industrialized countries. In contrast, transfer payments, and social welfare programs are likely to reduce economic growth for most countries. These programs reduce work incentives and encourage tax avoidance activities. Work disincentives and tax avoidance reduce economic growth. These expected relationships are consistent with economic performance and government size for the countries considered here. Inefficiency and excessive government growth are checked by voter feedback as tax burdens exceed the associated benefits. Unfortunately, government program costs and benefits are asymmetrically distributed. The resulting tendency is to expand government programs, particularly programs that benefit a majority of voters at the expense of a minority. This tendency becomes even more acute as the tax system becomes more progressive (i.e., tax burdens become concentrated. Reductions in government size are more likely with stagnant or declining economic growth, and in government programs whose costs are widely shared, compared to programs with widely shared benefits and narrowly shared costs.
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