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The Welfare State Is the Wrong Target: A Reply to Bergh


  • Peter H. Lindert


I AM DELIGHTED TO HAVE THIS CHANCE TO EXPAND ON THE links between social spending and economic growth. Andreas Bergh (2006) raises both small and large concerns that deserve further exploration. Let us go first to the largest issues of scope and methods, then to his specific criticisms of parts of my Growing Public book (hereafter GP) relating to Sweden’s policies toward the poor, toward women’s work, and toward retirement. The final section of this reply invites him and others to re-focus their search for flaws in large government, since the welfare state, as actually practiced, has not become a major flaw. On the contrary, the social transfers that have always defined the welfare state are indeed a “free lunch†in the sense that they have delivered more equality and longer life expectancy at an essentially zero cost in terms of GDP. Rather, it is other forms of legal and governmental interference with markets that are more likely to be anti-growth.

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  • Peter H. Lindert, 2006. "The Welfare State Is the Wrong Target: A Reply to Bergh," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(2), pages 236-250, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:3:y:2006:i:2:p:236-250

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andreas Bergh, 2004. "The Universal Welfare State: Theory and the Case of Sweden," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 52, pages 745-766, December.
    2. Peter Gordon & Lanlan Wang, 2004. "Does Economic Performance Correlate with Big Government?," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 1(2), pages 192-221, August.
    3. Kneller, Richard & Bleaney, Michael F. & Gemmell, Norman, 1999. "Fiscal policy and growth: evidence from OECD countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 171-190, November.
    4. Assar Lindbeck, 1997. "The Swedish Experiment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1273-1319, September.
    5. A. B. Atkinson, 1999. "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011719, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Bergh, 2006. "Work Incentives and Employment Are the Wrong Explanation of Sweden's Success," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(3), pages 452-460, September.
    2. Peter H. Lindert, 2006. "Second Reply to Bergh," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(3), pages 461-465, September.
    3. Berthold, Norbert & Brunner, Alexander, 2007. "Gibt es ein europäisches Sozialmodell?," Discussion Paper Series 100, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Chair of Economic Order and Social Policy.
    4. Marta Simoes & Adelaide Duarte & João Sousa Andrade, 2015. "Dimensions of the welfare state and economic performance: a comparative analysis," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 10,in: Marta Rahona López & Jennifer Graves (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 10, edition 1, volume 10, chapter 41, pages 811-828 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.

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