American Government Finance in the Long Run: 1790 to 1990.

John Joseph Wallis, Journal of Economic Perspectives 14(1), 61-82, December .


Government in America has gone through three distinct fiscal systems in the last two hundred years. Each system utilized a dominant revenue source, and had a distinctly active level of government. The changing structure of government by level seems to be related to changing revenue structures. When new taxes become important, the relative importance of each level of government changes. On the other hand, growth in the overall size of government is not directly related to the structure of revenues or the distribution of activity by level of government. Government growth is the result of long term commitments to provide education, transportation, social welfare services, old age security, and military forces.

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