GOVERNMENT GROWTH
by Frank Elwell

Government Growth

The essence of politics is power. The power to tax, wage war, determine policy, regulate commerce, and spend money on everything from nuclear missiles to pencils.

Government Growth

A funny thing has been happening in the 20th century.

Governments throughout the world have been expanding rapidly in recent times.

Government Growth

In 1929 the federal budget was equivalent to about 1% of GNP, in 1940 it equaled about 10% of GNP.

Government Growth

Today, the federal budget is equivalent to about 23% of GNP.

Government Growth

This growth in government has been faster than economic growth.

Today, the economy is about 20 times larger than it was in 1900, but government expenditures are 65 times larger.

Government Growth

The popular view is one of government growth going out of control with nameless, faceless government bureaucrats over-regulating economic and social life.

Government Growth

Several facts qualify this picture about government growing out of control.

Government Growth

First, government growth in employment has not been nearly as dramatic as its financial growth.

In 1900 civilian employment in government was 1 million, now it is some 16 million.

Government Growth

Second, the overwhelming majority of these government employees work for state and local governments, not the federal government.

Federal workers account for some 3 million workers. The remaining 13 million are at the state and local level.

Government Growth

At the state and local level, the government workforce is dominated by teachers and health care workers; more than half of local government employees work in education.

Government Growth

At the federal level, government employment is overwhelmingly dominated by civilian employees of the department of defense, who constitute more than 1 million (about a third) of the federal workers.

Government Growth

Adding together the Defense Department workers with the next largest category, the 665,000 Postal workers, accounts for over half of all federal civilian employment.

Government Growth

So it appears that government growth in the U.S. in terms of numbers of employees is not quite as great as many government critics would have us believe.

Government Growth

Even the growth in government spending should be looked at in perspective. In the U.S. the relative level of taxes is less than in almost every other advanced industrial nation on earth.

Government Growth

Every advanced industrial nation (save Japan) gathers a higher share of taxes than the United States. In some cases (Belgium, Denmark, Sweden), the tax burden is roughly 50 percent higher than it is in the U.S.

Government Growth

However, the comparison of the US and other countries on taxes is somewhat misleadingÖ.

Government Growth

The only reason our government expenditures even remotely compare to other industrialized nations is because we spend so much on defense.

Government Growth

When it comes to non-defense programs of social welfare, the U.S. spends a smaller proportion of its GNP than any other industrialized nation. Many also have higher standards of living as measured by both income and health statistics.

Government Growth

Other industrialized nations that provide more social welfare than the U.S. have undergone much more government expansion.

Government Growth

Government expenditures for defense tend to create few jobs.

Government expenditures for social welfare create many.

Government Growth

For example, Canadian governments spend far more for medical care and social welfare programs than does the US.

Government Growth

In 1947, the Canadian governments employed about 13% of the workforce.

By 1965 that figure rose to 25%, and now it is over 40%.

Government Growth

But, it is undeniable that government and the influence of government on the daily lives of citizens has grown in the 20th century.

Government Growth

In past centuries most centralized governments were distant and ineffective. Important decisions were made locally and were based on custom and tradition.

Government Growth

Today, governments are much stronger and less tightly bound by traditional restraints. The Civil War in this country marks the transition.

(Thatís why Lincolnís picture appears at the beginning of this presentation.)

Government Growth

Much of the growth in the size and influence of government has taken place in response to changes in other social institutions.

Reasons for Government Growth:

Changes in:

Primary Group Decline

As the family and community have been broken down by industrialism, the government has had to assume some of the functions that the family once performed.

Economic Change

The need to protect workers, consumers, and the environment from the exploitation of huge corporations is also a factor in the phenomenal growth of government.

Economic Change

The emerging industrial economy also showed considerable signs of instability. Conditions become so bad during the Great Depression that the government was forced to get more involved in regulating the economy.

Military Expansion

Modern warfare and the need to keep a permanent standing army constantly ready for war, has also provided the impetus to government growth.

Military Expansion

Other societies went through "demobilization" after war, hyper-industrial societies appear to be on a permanent, war footing.

Rise of Interest Groups

Governments have also grown in response to interest group pressure.

Rise of Interest Groups

The trucking industry (and the military) has demanded better roads and an interstate highway system; environmentalists have demanded pollution control and new park lands; the civil rights movement demanded federal protection from oppressive state and local governments.

Rise of Interest Groups

Nearly every organized group in America has pressured the federal government to provide services, protection, and advantages that they do not receive from either local government or the private sector.

Technological Change

Finally, growth in the power of central governments has been made possible by advances in transportation and communications technology.

Government Growth

So, the enlargement of government and the growth in the power and control it has on the daily life of citizens is undeniable.

In the next presentation we will look at some of the social problems that this growth has caused.