On the (Relative) Unimportance of a Balanced Budget
This paper explores the reasoning underlying Milton Friedman's preference for a small, unbalanced budget over a large, balanced one. Because the marginal return from government spending is less than the marginal cost (measured in terms of the amount of income private individuals remain free to spend), government expenditures have more of an adverse impact on the economy in his view than does the method of financing that spending. Using a panel data set comprising the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, the authors report evidence from the years 1967 through 1992 that growth rates in income per capita tend to be higher in states with smaller public sectors. Moreover, they find that while both deficits and taxes reduce the rate of income growth in a state, the negative impact of government spending is considerably larger at the margin. Copyright 1997 by Kluwer Academic Publishers
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