Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 130: Government Size and Growth: Accounting for Economic Freedom and Globalization

Andreas Bergh () and Martin Karlsson ()
Additional contact information
Andreas Bergh: Lund university & The Ratio Institute, Postal: The Ratio Institute, PO BOX 3203, SE-103 64 Stockholm, Sweden
Martin Karlsson: Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford

Abstract: Several recent studies have found a negative relation between government size and economic growth in rich countries. Since countries with big government have experienced above average improvements in both the Economic freedom index and the KOF globalization index, we argue that existing studies suffer from an omitted variable problem. Using Bayesian Averaging over Classical Estimates (BACE) in a panel of OECD countries, we show that the negative effect from government size is very robust and may have been underestimated in previous studies. The dataset is an updated and extended version of the data used by Fölster and Henrekson (2001), covering the period 1970-1995. We find clear evidence that globalization has a positive effect on growth, but find no effect of economic freedom. Finally, we find that the negative effect of government size decreases substantially in size but remains significant when we add the period 1996-2005 to the sample. Our results support the idea that countries with big government can use institutional quality such as economic freedom and globalization to mitigate negative growth effects of taxes and public expenditure.

Keywords: Government size; growth; economic freedom; globalization; taxes

JEL-codes: H11; O43

26 pages, February 16, 2009

Note: An early version of this paper was presented at the World Meeting of the Public Choice Society, Amsterdam 2007.

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