The Growth of Government and the Reform of the State in Industrial Countries


Ludger Schuknecht ; Vito Tanzi

Publication Date:

December 1, 1995

Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF.The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate


This paper describes the growth of public spending in industrial countries over the past century. It identifies several periods: the periods between 1870 and 1913; the period between the two World Wars; the post World War II period up to 1960; and the period after 1960. Public spending started growing during World War I but its growth accelerated after 1960. The paper outlines the reasons for this growth and speculates that recent government growth has not brought about much economic or social progress. The paper sees the future of government mainly in setting the “rules of the game,” and provides a rough blueprint for reform. It also discusses experiences with government reform in selected count les, and predicts that over the next decades, public spending as a share of GDP will fall.


Working Paper No. 1995/130



Paper presented at the Conference on "Inequality, the Welfare State and Social Values," El Escorial (Madrid, Spain), July 11-13, 1995.


Publication Date:

December 1, 1995



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