Monday, August 28, 2006

I have no dog in this fight ...

... actually, but I found one passage in Jonathan Chait's The fallacy of zero-sum politics fascinating: "In 1964, the federal government spent 18.5 cents of the American economic dollar. In 2005, it spent 20.5 cents. This is not what small-government conservatives would call progress."
Why wouldn't they call it progress? Adjusted for inflation. 18.5 cents in 1964 dollars is $1.15 in today's dollars. A three-cent increase over 42 years is spectacularly low.

Update: Inquirer economics columnist Andy Cassel sends me this link that is pertinent to the discussion: The Price of Government.


  1. I hope you're joking. You are, right?

    The assertion is that government spending has gone from 18.5 percent to 20.5 percent of X (I assume X is something like GDP, but I didn't read the source). So regardless of inflation, the PERCENTAGE of government spending relative to the total has gone up.

  2. No, I'm a borderline numillitterate. I just spoke with our economics columnist, Andy Cassel, about this, and he pointed out that, while it is an increase, it isn't much of an increase. He notes that there is good evidence that this percentage is approved by a wide consensus - lower it, and people will feel there are being shortchanged regarding government services; raise it and they'll feel they're paying too much for government. I suppose those conservatives whose aim was to shrink government will be disappointed by the figure, but theirs was a quixotic aim anyway.