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Growing Public: Volume 1, The Story: Social Spending and Economic Growth since the Eighteenth Century 2nd Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0521529167
ISBN-10: 0521529166
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Editorial Reviews


"[Lindert] provides a valuable history of social spending and proposes a theory about why some nations spend more than others that is closely related to how well democracy works. This is a piece of research that is rich in insight and grounded in empirical evidence." Jeff Madrick, The New York Times

"One great question of the early 21st century is whether...welfare states, facing massive commitments to aging populations, will themselves create new insecurities and injustices. Comes now economic historian Peter Lindert, who has thoroughly probed the welfare state, with a surprising message: important new book..." Robert J. Samuelson, Newsweek

"...the most comprehensive historical and econometric examination of the essential value of public expenditures I have seen anywhere. By the conclusion of this tour, the reader is left with a clear view of a world in which public expenditures on human welfare not only do no harm to national growth trajectories, but one in which investment in the infrastructure of human capital formation is itself growth-enhancing. This core finding of Lindert's exhaustive research will appear radical, perhaps even heretical, to a generation trained in neo-classical economics, but he arrives at it by employing the best of the theory and methodology of that discipline. As such it will be hard to refute." Anne E. C. McCants, Associate Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"What determines how much governments spend on health, welfare, education, and social security? What effect does this social spending have on economic growth? Peter Lindert gives new answers to these big questions, in a lucid and engagingly written book that ranges across the globe and from the eighteenth century up to the current day. His surprising finding is that social spending does not slow growth, at least in western democracies, and his gem of a book will be essential reading for historians, economists, political scientists, and modern-day policy makers." Philip T. Hoffman, Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of History and Social Science, California Institute of Technology

"Peter Lindert has written a dazzling book. He takes on one of the grand topics of economics the rise of social spending and offers us a remarkable combination of new data, historical insight, political analysis, and economic assessment. Amazingly, Lindert comes up with fresh, convincing, and important insights on issues that have been debated for decades. Two of Lindert's major conclusions are that the spread of democracy has historically played a pivotal role in the rise of social expenditures; and that social spending has not gravely weakened economic incentives and long-term economic growth, despite the drumbeat of criticisms from free-market devotees. Indeed Lindert concludes that the net national costs of social transfers, and of the taxes that finance them, are essentially zero.a This powerful book will be widely read and debated for many years to come." Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute at Columbia University

"What determines social spending, also known as public education, also known as social security, also known as taking from the rich and giving to the poor? This question is the subject of much theoretical and empirical speculation and some moderately detailed previous work. Yet this magnificent summa by Peter Lindert blows away the field. He probes the historical and comparative rise of social spending in today's OECD countries and derives many new insights into the classic themes of social spending and elite behavior, democracy, inequality, religion, and ethnic divisions. He draws out the implications of his careful analysis for the future of the Third World and First alike. A must-read for anyone interested in big government, political economy, helping the poor, or simply the fate of human societies." William Easterly, New York University

"Peter Lindert has given us a treatise on the economic and political forces driving social spending and of the effects of the welfare state that sweeps over time, over nations, and over disciplines. It is simultaneously comparativepoliticaleconomic history, demography, applied econometrics, political theory, and political economy. While few will agree with all of the often-surprising answers he gives to the most fundamental questions regarding the existence and the effects of public social welfare policies, no one will suggest that they are not bold and provocative. Growing Public is a most readable and insightful and, yes, irreverent volume that will be discussed by all concerned with these front-page issues." Robert Haveman, John Bascom Emeritus Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Growing Public greatly increases our understanding of the rise and the effects of social spending, and is a welcome empirically based response to the ever-growing economic literature arguing that the costs of the welfare state are unacceptably high." Industrial and Labor Relations Review, George R. Boyer

Book Description

Growing Public examines the question of whether social policies that redistribute income impose constraints on economic growth. Taxes and transfers have been debated for centuries, but only now can we get a clear view of the whole evolution of social spending. Lindert argues that, contrary to the intuition of many economists and the ideology of many politicians, social spending has contributed to, rather than inhibited, economic growth.

Product Details

  • Series: Growing Public (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (January 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521529166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521529167
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gregg R. Hill on June 16, 2004
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This is a very informative book that clears up lots of misconceptions. It explains why the "wellfare state" is still around, even after so many death notices. The analysis shows that there is no net negative cost for comprehensive and universal social programs, and that there are often significant benefits. For those who can read this book without ideological and political blinders, there is much to learn from Peter Lindert's book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Lane on July 10, 2011
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This book is a readable, but quantitative, study on the evolution of modern state social policy from a careful economic historian. In particular, Lindert's focus is on the historical rise of redistribution, social transfers, and taxation--the subject of public economics--across modern industrial nations. Each section is tightly argued and self-contaned, presenting nice counter-factuals to common wisdom, while incorporating current research in taxation and economic history.

Lindert is constantly trying to reconcile larger puzzles and paradoxes in public economic thought. To do so, he both cuts through casual empiricism and folk theories, skillfully applying secondary source material and nice quantitative methodology to explain historical outcomes where other theories fall short. This means paying careful attention to the role of political institutions: in explaining Victorian England's lag in educational provisioning, he turns to the landed elite's grip on central states and local public finances alike. Contrast this to America and Prussia of the same period, where two very different states could meet the educational demand of wealthier subregions through decentralization of local public finance policy. Moreover, Lindert carefully ties patterns in education spending to how and when voting franchise was extended to certain classes. And the story is much more subtle than I imagined.

The most important and compelling chapter is Lindert's attempt at confronting the paradox of taxation, social spending and growth: why have states prone to large social spending not experienced large costs in growth? Lindert nicely summarizes the literature on labor supply elasticities, showing that welfare losses associated with taxing the rich are much lower than once imagined.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Henry A. Kim on August 19, 2005
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The conventional wisdom among the members of the public is that the European welfare state is based on progressive taxation, with the government taking the role of Robin Hood. Lindert totally refutes this notion. He shows convincingly that throughout the modern history, the greater welfare expenditure has always been accompanied by increasingly regressive taxation, contrary to what people--especially American liberals--tend to believe. While the tax on income may appear more progressive, this hides both the fact that most European countries--especially those with high welfare expenditures--rely heavily on indirect taxes which are generally regressive in nature, and that numerous loopholes reduce effective tax rate even for income. The logic driving the study is simple: people pay for what they get; they don't put up with being forced to pay for what they don't get.

This is not a completely new notion--Sven Steinmo has done a similar study, albeit over a much shorter time span and concerning a lot fewer countries, with similar findings, but the study remains rather obscure. One hopes that more people read thes studies--which they probably won't--so that many of the common misperceptions about social policy (even among professional economists!) would go away.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Godfree Roberts on April 3, 2005
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Peter Lindert has done humanity a great service, settled many scores, and given us both a perspective and a vocabulary with which to address the contentious issue of social spending and wealth transfer.

"Growing Public" is one of the greatest contributions to Economic theory in the past century. Anyone with a social conscience owes it to himself to read this book and make its findings widely known.

One of the book's many virtues (it is based upon very hard historical data) is that it is entirely readable.
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