IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Expansion of the Public Economy: A Comparative Analysis


  • Cameron, David R.


In spite of the traditional legitimacy accorded the market mechanism of the private sector in advanced capitalist nations, governments in those nations have become more influential as providers of social services and income supplements, producers of goods, managers of the economy, and investors of capital. And in order to finance these various activities the revenues of public authorities have increased dramatically–to a point where they are now equivalent to one-third to one-half of a nation's economic product.This growth in governmental activity in advanced capitalist society is examined by considering the causes, and some of the consequences, of the expansion of the public economy–defined, following Schumpeter's discussion of the “tax state,†in terms of the extractive role of government. The primary concern of this article is to discover why some nations have experienced a far greater rate of increase in recent years and, as a result, have a much larger public economy than other nations. Five types of explanation are elaborated to account for the growth of the scope of governmental activity: (1) the level and rate of growth in the economic product; (2) the degree to which the fiscal structure of a nation relies on indirect, or “invisible,†taxes; (3) politics–in particular the partisan composition of government and the frequency of electoral competition; (4) the institutional structure of government; and (5) the degree of exposure of the economy to the international marketplace. The article evaluates the five explanations with data for 18 nations, and concludes by discussing some implications of the analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Cameron, David R., 1978. "The Expansion of the Public Economy: A Comparative Analysis," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 1243-1261, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:04:p:1243-1261_15

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to article abstract page
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:04:p:1243-1261_15. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Kirk Stebbing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.