IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Openness, Government Size and the Terms of Trade

  • Paolo Epifani
  • Gino Gancia

This paper investigates the relationship between trade openness and the size of governments, both theoretically and empirically. We argue that openness can increase the size of governments through two channels: (1) a terms of trade externality, whereby trade lowers the domestic cost of taxation, and (2) the demand for insurance, whereby trade raises risk and public transfers. We provide a unified framework for studying and testing these two mechanisms. Our main theoretical prediction is that the relative strength of the two explanations depends on a key parameter, namely, the elasticity of substitution between domestic and foreign goods. Moreover, while the first mechanism is inefficient from the standpoint of world welfare, the second is instead optimal. In the empirical part of the paper, we provide new evidence on the positive association between openness and government size and we explore its determinants. Consistently with the terms of trade externality channel, we show that the correlation is contingent on a low elasticity of substitution between domestic and foreign goods. Our findings raise warnings that globalization may have led to inefficiently large governments.

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 359.

in new window

Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:359
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Schönberggasse 1, CH-8001 Zürich

Phone: +41-1-634 21 37
Fax: +41-1-634 49 82
Web page:

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. David K. Backus & Mario J. Crucini, 1998. "Oil Prices and the Terms of Trade," NBER Working Papers 6697, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "The size and scope of government:: Comparative politics with rational politicians," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 699-735, April.
  3. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2006. "What Do Trade Negotiators Negotiate About? Empirical Evidence from the World Trade Organization," NBER Working Papers 12727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gali, Jordi, 1994. "Government size and macroeconomic stability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 117-132, January.
  5. Paolo Epifani & Gino Gancia, 2005. "Openness, government size and the terms of trade," Economics Working Papers 915, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jan 2008.
  6. van der ploeg, F., 1987. "Coordination of optimal taxation in a two-country equilibrium model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 279-285.
  7. Daron Acemoglu & Jaume Ventura, 2002. "The World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 659-694.
  8. David Weinstein & Christian Broda, 2004. "Globalization and the Gains from Variety," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 508, Econometric Society.
  9. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "The Politics of 1992: Fiscal Policy and European Integration," NBER Working Papers 3460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James E. Rauch, 1996. "Networks versus Markets in International Trade," NBER Working Papers 5617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Roberto Perotti, 1994. "The Welfare State and Competitiveness," NBER Working Papers 4810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Muhammad Islam, 2004. "The long run relationship between openness and government size: evidence from bounds test," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(9), pages 995-1000.
  13. Bagwell,K. & Staiger,R.W., 1998. "An economic theory of GATT," Working papers 15, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  14. Giancarlo Corsetti & Paolo Pesenti, 2001. "Welfare and Macroeconomic Interdependence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 421-445.
  15. Lindbeck, Assar & Weibull, Jorgen W., 1993. "A model of political equilibrium in a representative democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 195-209, June.
  16. Cole, Harold L. & Obstfeld, Maurice, 1991. "Commodity trade and international risk sharing : How much do financial markets matter?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 3-24, August.
  17. Benassy, Jean-Pascal, 1998. "Is there always too little research in endogenous growth with expanding product variety?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 61-69, January.
  18. Dani Rodrik, 1997. "Has Globalization Gone Too Far?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 57, January.
  19. Kiviet, Jan F., 1995. "On bias, inconsistency, and efficiency of various estimators in dynamic panel data models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 53-78, July.
  20. Wacziarg, Romain & Alesina, Alberto, 1998. "Openness, Country Size and Government," Scholarly Articles 4553014, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  21. Romain Wacziarg & Karen Horn Welch, 2003. "Trade Liberalization and Growth: New Evidence," NBER Working Papers 10152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1995. "Double-edged incentives: Institutions and policy coordination," Handbook of International Economics, in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 1973-2030 Elsevier.
  23. Fatas, Antonio & Mihov, Ilian, 2001. "Government size and automatic stabilizers: international and intranational evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 3-28, October.
  24. Hassler, John & Mora, José V Rodríguez & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2001. "The Survival of the Welfare State," CEPR Discussion Papers 2905, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  25. Stephen J. Turnovsky, 1987. "The Gains from Fiscal Cooperation in the Two Commodity Real Trade Model," NBER Working Papers 2466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Devereux, Michael B, 1991. "The Terms of Trade and the International Coordination of Fiscal Policy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(4), pages 720-36, October.
  27. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Why Do More Open Economies Have Bigger Governments?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 997-1032, October.
  28. Tommaso Monacelli & Roberto Perotti, 2008. "Openness and the Sectoral Effects of Fiscal Policy," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 395-403, 04-05.
  29. Garen, John & Trask, Kathleen, 2005. "Do more open economies have bigger governments? Another look," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 533-551, August.
  30. Jordi Gali & Tommaso Monacelli, 2005. "Optimal fiscal policy in a monetary union," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  31. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 162, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  32. Wilson, John Douglas, 1987. "Trade, Capital Mobility, and Tax Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(4), pages 835-56, August.
  33. David M. G. Newbery & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "Pareto Inferior Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 1-12.
  34. Roger H. Gordon, 1983. "An Optimal Taxation Approach to Fiscal Federalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 567-586.
  35. Robin Boadway & Shlomo Maital & Martin Prachowny, 1973. "Optimal Tariffs, Optimal Taxes and Public Goods," Working Papers 120, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  36. Limão, Nuno, 2005. "Preferential Trade Agreements as Stumbling Blocks for Multilateral Trade Liberalization: Evidence for the US," CEPR Discussion Papers 4884, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  37. Andersen, Torben M., 2004. "Challenges to the Scandinavian welfare model," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 743-754, September.
  38. Perotti, Roberto & Alesina, Alberto, 1997. "The Welfare State and Competitiveness," Scholarly Articles 4553027, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  39. Stephen Bond & Céline Nauges & Frank Windmeijer, 2002. "Unit Roots and Identification in Autoregressive Panel Data Models: A Comparison of Alternative Tests," 10th International Conference on Panel Data, Berlin, July 5-6, 2002 C5-4, International Conferences on Panel Data.
  40. Josep M. Vilarrubia, 2006. "Neighborhood effects in economic growth," Working Papers 0627, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
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:zur:iewwpx:359. 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: (Marita Kieser)

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.