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The growth of the post-war public expenditure state: long-term trajectories and recent trends


  • Castles, Francis G.


This Working Paper has two principal objectives. The first is to describe the main trajectories of development of public expenditure aggregates in OECD countries during the period 1960-2001. The second is to provide a more detailed analysis of expenditure trends in these countries in the period since 1980, with a view to establishing the extent and sources of expenditure retrenchment in this latter period. The aggregates examined include total outlays of general government, total social expenditure and the core spending of general government, including expenditures on defence, public order, education, general public services, economic affairs, community services and environmental protection. The headline stories of the general survey of expenditure trajectories include the massive overall expansion of public spending, the declining importance of military expenditures and the increased salience of spending on social policy objectives and, most recently, a shift within the latter category from cash benefit spending to spending on service provision. Significant findings of the analysis of trends include the pronounced convergence of aggregate expenditure levels, the role of slow economic growth in promoting the measured growth of public expenditure and the continuing importance of the partisan complexion of government in shaping spending patterns. The analysis also suggests that post-1980 retrenchment tendencies were restricted to core spending, were only marginally influenced by developments in the global economy and were driven almost entirely by a conjuncture of high levels of public indebtedness and high real interest rates which is unlikely to be repeated in the near future.

Suggested Citation

  • Castles, Francis G., 2006. "The growth of the post-war public expenditure state: long-term trajectories and recent trends," TranState Working Papers 35, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb597:35

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:02:p:243-260_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alan T. Peacock & Jack Wiseman, 1961. "The Growth of Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number peac61-1, April.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:04:p:1243-1261_15 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Larkey, Patrick D. & Stolp, Chandler & Winer, Mark, 1981. "Theorizing About the Growth of Government: A Research Assessment," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(02), pages 157-220, May.
    5. Taylor-Gooby, Peter (ed.), 2004. "New Risks, New Welfare: The Transformation of the European Welfare State," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199267279.
    6. Tanzi,Vito & Schuknecht,Ludger, 2000. "Public Spending in the 20th Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521662918, May.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:94:y:2000:i:02:p:251-267_22 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:69:y:1975:i:04:p:1299-1315_24 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Schäfer, Armin, 2008. "Krisentheorien der Demokratie: Unregierbarkeit, Spätkapitalismus und Postdemokratie," MPIfG Discussion Paper 08/10, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

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