NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Taking A Government's Measure

May 1, 1996

A variety of measures can be used to estimate the size of government -- and thus its growth over time -- according to Australia's Center for Independent Studies.

In Australia, for instance:

  • The number of lawyers increased by 280 percent from 1978 to 1994, while total employment grew only 28 percent during the same period.
  • From 1990 to 1994, the Commonwealth Parliament passed as many pages of legislation as it did from 1901 to 1970.
  • General government outlays grew from 26 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1961-62 to 33 percent of GDP in 1992-93.
  • Revenues grew from 24 percent to 33 percent of GDP over the same period, and taxes from 22 percent to 29 percent of GDP -- with average income tax per household rising from 10 percent to 16 percent.

As in most Western countries, the growth of government in Australia exceeded both population growth and economic growth. Thus from the early 1960s to the 1990s, after adjusting for inflation, real per capita government expenditures grew by 300 percent.

Source: Michael Warby, "Measuring Government," Policy, vol. 12, no. 3, Spring 1996, Center for Independent Studies, P.O. Box 92, St. Leonards NSW 2065 Australia, (02) 9438-4377.


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