Spalding traces the roots of American progressives to German thinkers who believed in the "Administrative State." Here, government is controlled by administrators and "experts," rather than officials elected to represent the people. Spalding also notes that the Founders and the progressives differed in their view of the Constitution. Progressives believed in a "...
Government Expenditure as a Percentage of GDP
"A modern government is not a single, simple thing. It consists of many institutions, agencies, and activities and includes many separate actors—legislators, administrators, judges, and various ordinary employees. These actors act somewhat independently, and even, at times, at cross-purposes. Because government is complex, no single measure suffices to capture its true 'size.' Each of the commonly employed measures has serious shortcomings and sometimes can be misleading. Nevertheless, the various measures reveal at least something about the size of government. The most common measure used by economists is government expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Sometimes, net national product or national income is used, which make more defensible denominators. Table 1 sketches the long-run growth of government in six countries in terms of this measure.
As the table shows, government expenditures have grown enormously during the past century. As late as 1913, for example, even in a group of seventeen economically advanced countries, government expenditures averaged only about 13 percent of GDP. At most (in Austria, France, and Italy), they came to just 17 percent, and for the United States they were less than 8 percent. Taxation and government employment were at similarly low levels. In contrast, by 1996, government expenditures in the same seventeen countries had reached nearly 46 percent of GDP. Sweden's were the highest, at more than 64 percent, and U.S. expenditures reached more than 32 percent. ... Taxation, government employment, and other aspects of government had expanded similarly. Moreover, governments have vastly increased the scope and societal penetration of their regulation in ways that spending measures do not reflect. In the United States, for example, private individuals and firms spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to comply with government regulations aimed at reducing air and water pollution, lowering health risks, and eliminating workplace discrimination against women and members of various ethnic and other protected groups.
Though imperfect, the measures illustrated in the table reflect the size of government. However, they have only a rough association with its scope—that is, the number of separate matters the government tries to influence or control."
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