IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Why the Welfare State Looks Like a Free Lunch

  • Peter H. Lindert

The econometric consensus on the effects of social spending confirms a puzzle we confront in the raw data: There is no clear net GDP cost of high tax-based social spending on GDP, despite a tradition of assuming that such costs are large. The paper offers five keys to this free lunch puzzle. First, the costly forms of transfers usually imagined have not been practiced by real-world welfare states. Second, better tests confirm that the usually imagined costs would be felt only if policy had strayed out of sample, away from any actual historical experience. Third, the tax strategies of high-budget welfare states are more pro-growth and less progressive than has been realized. Fourth, the work disincentives of social transfers are so designed as to shield GDP from much reduction if any. Finally, we return to some positive growth and well-being benefits of the high social transfers, and suggest how democratic cost control relates to budget size.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9869.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9869.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Jul 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9869
Note: DAE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Agell, Jonas & Lindh, Thomas & Ohlsson, Henry, 1997. "Growth and the public sector: A critical review essay," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 33-52, February.
  2. 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, June.
  3. Kenneth L. Judd, 1984. "The Welfare Cost of Factor Taxation in a Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 643, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Joel Slemrod, 1995. "Involvement, Prosperity, and Economic Growth?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 373-431.
  5. Mendoza, Enrique G. & Razin, Assaf & Tesar, Linda L., 1994. "Effective tax rates in macroeconomics: Cross-country estimates of tax rates on factor incomes and consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 297-323, December.
  6. Sala-i-Martin, Xavier X, 1996. " A Positive Theory of Social Security," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 2a77-304, June.
  7. Agell, Jonas & Lindh, Thomas & Ohlsson, Henry, 1998. "Growth and the Public Sector: A reply," Working Paper Series 1999:1, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  8. Becker, Gary S., 1985. "Public policies, pressure groups, and dead weight costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 329-347, December.
  9. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 291-364 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Chamley, Christophe, 1981. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation in a Growing Economy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 468-96, June.
  11. Folster, Stefan & Henrekson, Magnus, 2001. "Growth effects of government expenditure and taxation in rich countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1501-1520, August.
  12. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Tax Avoidance and the Deadweight Loss of the Income Tax," NBER Working Papers 5055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Lindert, Peter H., 1996. "What Limits Social Spending?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-34, January.
  14. William Easterly & Sergio Rebelo, 1993. "Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 4499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Enrique G. Mendoza & Linda L. Tesar, 1995. "Supply-Side Economics in a Global Economy," NBER Working Papers 5086, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Browning, Edgar K & Johnson, William R, 1984. "The Trade-Off between Equality and Efficiency," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 175-203, April.
  17. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 2003. "Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 293-340, October.
  18. David Carey & Harry Tchilinguirian, 2000. "Average Effective Tax Rates on Capital, Labour and Consumption," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 258, OECD Publishing.
  19. Becker, Gary S, 1983. "A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400, August.
  20. Uwe E. Reinhardt, 2000. "Health Care for the Aging Baby Boom: Lessons from Abroad," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 71-83, Spring.
  21. David Carey & Josette Rabesona, 2002. "Tax Ratios on Labour and Capital Income and on Consumption," OECD Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2002(2), pages 129-174.
  22. Gary Burtless, 1986. "The work response to a guaranteed income: a survey of experimental evidence," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 30, pages 22-59.
  23. Brock, William A & Turnovsky, Stephen J, 1981. "The Analysis of Macroeconomic Policies in Perfect Foresight Equilibrium," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(1), pages 179-209, February.
  24. Moffitt, Robert A., 2002. "Welfare programs and labor supply," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 34, pages 2393-2430 Elsevier.
  25. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, August.
  26. Robert K. Triest, 1990. "The Effect of Income Taxation on Labor Supply in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(3), pages 491-516.
  27. Ballard, Charles L, 1988. "The Marginal Efficiency Cost of Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1019-33, December.
  28. Folster, Stefan & Henrekson, Magnus, 1999. "Growth and the public sector: a critique of the critics," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 337-358, June.
  29. Commander, Simon & Davoodi, Hamid R. & Lee, Une J., 1997. "The causes of government and the consequences for growth and well-being," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1785, The World Bank.
  30. Anders Forslund & Alan B. Krueger, 1997. "An Evaluation of the Swedish Active Labor Market Policy: New and Received Wisdom," NBER Chapters, in: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model, pages 267-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. Stuart, Charles E, 1984. "Welfare Costs per Dollar of Additional Tax Revenue in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 352-62, June.
  32. Padovano, Fabio & Galli, Emma, 2001. "Tax Rates and Economic Growth in the OECD Countries (1950-1990)," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(1), pages 44-57, January.
  33. Robert K. Triest, 1993. "The Efficiency Cost of Increased Progressivity," NBER Working Papers 4535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Victor R. Fuchs & Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba, 1998. "Economists' Views about Parameters, Values, and Policies: Survey Results in Labor and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1387-1425, September.
  35. Mike Brewer, 2000. "Comparing in-work benefits and financial work incentives for low-income families in the US and the UK," IFS Working Papers W00/16, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  36. Kawachi, Ichiro & Kennedy, Bruce P., 1997. "The relationship of income inequality to mortality: Does the choice of indicator matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1121-1127, October.
  37. Greenberg, David & Halsey, Harlan, 1983. "Systematic Misreporting and Effects of Income Maintenance Experiments on Work Effort: Evidence from the Seattle-Denver Experiment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(4), pages 380-407, October.
  38. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-44, September.
  39. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  40. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9869. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

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.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with 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 profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

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

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.