Advanced Topics in Liberty

Growth of Government

Conference for Students - October 28-30, 2011

It would be fair to say that, until recently, it was recognized that markets are more efficient than centralized government planning. However, this insight failed to limit the growth in government in virtually all Western democracies, and policy responses to the recent economic crisis suggest that many still place their faith in government and central planning. Prior to the current financial circumstances, despite the fact that communism had fallen in most of the world, governments continued to grow in advanced Western nations. This seems illogical. Government is a less efficient institution than the market, and the failure of communism is a considerably telling experiment. Why does government continue to grow? Given the nature of recent legislation aimed at addressing the current economic crisis, perhaps optimism about the compelling success of markets was misplaced. Is the goal of limited government only appealing to the public when the economy is strong?

Growth in the size and scope of government does not merely hurt efficiency; it also limits liberty. Individuals and groups within society are less free to experiment with possible solutions to social problems. The power of the state can be used by majorities to curtail certain activities that might limit individual freedom. Why government began to grow and continues to grow (the so-called Tullock paradox) will be one of the key questions addressed at this colloquium.

Discussion Leader - Donald Boudreaux, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Session I - Why Does Freedom Wax and Wane?

Tullock, Gordon. The Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, Volume 10: Economics Without Frontiers. Edited by Charles K. Rowley. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2006. Part 6, Size and Growth of Government: “An Empirical Analysis of Cross-National Economic Growth, 1951-80” (pages 379–398).

Session II - Why Does Government’s Share of the National Income Grow?

Higgs, Robert. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Part I, Chapter 1, “The Sources of Big Government: A Critical Survey of Hypotheses” (pages 3–19).

Seldon, Arthur. The Collected Works of Arthur Seldon, Volume V: Government Failure and Over-Government. Edited by Colin Robinson. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2005. Chapter 2, “The Debilitating Disease of Over-Government” (pages 101–115).

Session III - Ideology and Government Growth

Hayek, F.A. The Intellectuals and Socialism. Arlington: Institute for Humane Studies, 2000, 2007. (pages 5–26).

Bryan Caplan. “Libertarianism Against Economism: How Economists Misunderstand Voters and Why Libertarians Should Care.” Independent Review (Spring 2001): 539–563.

Session IV - Redistributive Politics and Increases in Government

Robert Higgs. “Eighteen Problematic Propositions in the Analysis of the Growth of Government.” The Review of Austrian Economics 5, no. 1 (1991): 3–40.

de Jasay, Anthony. The State. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998. Chapter 4, “Redistribution”: “Churning” (pages 254–266) and “Towards a Theory of the State” (pages 266–273).

Session V - Constitutional Constraints

Whittington, Keith. Constitutional Interpretation: Textual Meaning, Original Intent, and Judicial Review. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999. Chapter 1, “Constitutional Interpretation” (pages 1–16).

Carey, George W. and James McClellan, eds. The Federalist, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001. Federalist #41 (pages 207–215), Federalist #42 (pages 215–222), Federalist #43 (pages 222–230), Federalist #44 (pages 230–237), Federalist #45 (pages 237–242), and Federalist #46 (pages 242–248).

Session VI - Limiting the Growth of Government

Carey, George W. and James McClellan, eds. The Federalist, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001. Federalist #4, (pages 13–17), Federalist #5 (pages 17–20), Federalist #6 (pages 20–26), Federalist #17 (pages 80–84), Federalist #18 (pages 84–89), and Federalist #24 (pages 117–121).

Buchanan, James M. and Geoffrey Brennan. The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Volume 10, The Reasons of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2000. Chapter 9, “Is Constitutional Revolution Possible in Democracy?” (pages 149–167).

Hayek, F. A. Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1: Rules and Order. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1973, 1978. Chapter 2, “Cosmos and Taxis”: “The Rules of Spontaneous Order and The Rules of Organization” (pages 48–52).