David Ruccio hypothesizes that the current worldwide macroeconomic difficulties are related to increased inequality in the distribution of income in, say, the United States over the last few decades. I have been considering hypothetical mechanisms that expand on this idea. Previously I have put forth the Harrod-Domar growth model as a framework in which increased inequality leads to a tendency towards recessions. In this post, I focus on causation in the other direction. (A full analysis of the issues will likely describe a process of cumulative causation.)
Active macroeconomic fiscal policy is assisted if government spending is already a somewhat large component of a nation's economy. It is easier to raise government spending by some given fraction of national income if that change is a smaller percentage of current government spending. We have seen this issue in connection with the Obama administrations talk of "shovel-ready" projects and the stimulus policy. Perhaps this consideration even applies to automatic stabilizers.
So governments that are smaller with respect to their national economies might be expected to exhibit worse macroeconomic performance. And James Galbraith has shown quite some time ago that poor macroeconomic performance leads to increased greater inequality in wages.
Perhaps the above is part of the explanation for the empirical cross-section correlation between decreased government size and increased inequality. I think Hacker and Pierson give some explanation why increased inequality engenders political forces tending towards smaller government size.
6 months ago