On the (Relative) Unimportance of a Balanced Budget
This paper explores the reasoning underlying Milton Friedman's preference for a small, unbalanced budget over a large, balanced one. Because the marginal return from government spending is less than the marginal cost (measured in terms of the amount of income private individuals remain free to spend), government expenditures have more of an adverse impact on the economy in his view than does the method of financing that spending. Using a panel data set comprising the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, we report evidence from the years 1967 through 1992 that growth rates in income per capita tend to be higher in states with smaller public sectors. Moreover, we find that while both deficits and taxes reduce the rate of income growth in a state, the negative impact of government spending is considerably larger at the margin.
On the (Relative) Unimportance of a Balanced Budget” (with Laura Razzolini), Public Choice 90 (March 1997), pp. 215–233; reprinted in Charles K. Rowley (ed.), Constitutional Political Economy in a Public Choice Perspective, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997, pp. 215–233.