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Government growth in the twenty-first century


  • Randall Holcombe



Public choice explanations of government growth fall into three main categories: budget-maximization theories, rational-choice models, and path-dependent models like the “ratchet hypothesis”. The strengths and weaknesses of these theories as explanations for government growth are considered along with some facts about the actual growth of government to conjecture about its trajectory in the twenty-first century. Government size seems to have been constrained in the past primarily by its ability to raise revenue. Growth rates in the new century thus appear to depend on factors constraining government’s ability to continue to expand the tax base. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Suggested Citation

  • Randall Holcombe, 2005. "Government growth in the twenty-first century," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 95-114, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:124:y:2005:i:1:p:95-114
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-005-4748-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. António Afonso & João Jalles, 2016. "Economic performance, government size, and institutional quality," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 43(1), pages 83-109, February.
    2. Bjørnskov, Christian & Rode, Martin, 2016. "And Yet It Grows: Crisis, Ideology, and Interventionist Policy Ratchets," Working Paper Series 1135, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    3. Durevall, Dick & Henrekson, Magnus, 2011. "The futile quest for a grand explanation of long-run government expenditure," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 708-722.
    4. Albanese, Giuseppe & Modica, Salvatore, 2010. "Co-movement of public spending in the G7," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 121-123, November.
    5. Edward Stringham, 2014. "Gary Chartier, Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and politics for a stateless society," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 581-583, June.
    6. Facchini, Francois, 2014. "The determinants of public spending: a survey in a methodological perspective," MPRA Paper 53006, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Russell Sobel & George Crowley, 2014. "Do intergovernmental grants create ratchets in state and local taxes?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(1), pages 167-187, January.
    8. Thomas A. Garrett & Andrew F. Kozak & Russell M. Rhine, 2010. "Institutions and government growth: a comparison of the 1890s and the 1930s," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 109-120.
    9. Bos, Frits, 2006. "De Nederlandse collectieve uitgaven in historisch perspectief
      [Dutch public expenditure in historical perspective]
      ," MPRA Paper 40602, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Stanley L. Winer & Michael W. Tofias & Bernard Grofman & John H. Aldrich, 2007. "Is it Economics or Politics? Trending Economic Factors and the Structure of Congress in the Growth of Government, 1930-2002 – revised version: Trending Economic Factors and the Structure of Congress i," Carleton Economic Papers 07-04, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised 17 Jan 2008.

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