Starve the beast means feed the machine

Joseph Daniel Ura and Erica Socker report (pdf):

The notion of starving the beast has been an important justification for major elements of the fiscal program advocated by many Republicans and conservatives over the last three decades. While the idea of restraining government spending by limiting government revenues has an intuitive appeal, there is convincing evidence the reducing federal tax rates without coordinated reductions in federal spending actually produces long-term growth in spending. This seemingly perverse result is explained by Buchanan’s theory of “fiscal illusion.” By deferring the costs of government services and benefits through deficit financing, starve the beast policies have the effect of lowering the perceived price of government in the minds of many citizens. We assess the principal behavioral prediction of the fiscal illusion strategy. Incorporating estimates of the effects of federal deficits into a standard substantive model of Stimson’s mood index, we find strong support for a subjective price-driven theory of demand for government. In particular, we find that the size of the federal budget deficit is significantly associated greater demand for government services and benefits.


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