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Taxation and Democracy: Swedish, British, and American Approaches to Financing the Modern State.

This book, highly lauded by the author's political science colleagues such as Hugh Heclo, will provide interesting and perhaps helpful reading to those researching and studying public sector economics. Within this group it will be most interesting to those of a public choice or political economy perspective particularly if interested in the growth of government. The book offers specific information on the history, politics, political institutions and taxation underlying the growth of the welfare state in Sweden, England and the U.S. Of course, the information provided for England and Sweden may be more striking to U.S. trained economist.

I found the book well written and easy to read. The author has a lively inspired style. He efficiently blends descriptive statistics, graphs and prose. This reviewer read all chapters at least twice without bogging down or being bored even with the known U.S. material.

The substance of the book is three chapters - one on each of the countries studied. Each of the chapters builds a story of government growth and change including expenditures as well as taxation. Each story is very interdisciplinary. Each chapter employs or touches economics, history, politics or political science, psychology, public choice, etc. in varying degrees or mixtures with knowledge and skill.

Within the author's approach or methodological position, I found the book wanting in three ways. First, the author offers little or no justification for the three countries chosen and discussed. Why not the U.S., England and France or Germany? Secondly, the author does little to distinguish between the influence of adult populace preference versus adults who vote. The second deficiency interacts with the third unaddressed aspect, changing demographics, age and particularly in the U.S. geographic distribution.

Though I recommend this book to public sector economists, I do so with reservation about the author's posture with regard to theory. This, I believe, is likely to trouble most economists interested in the book. The author has no belief in nor desire to, and hence makes no claim of, developing a general theory in his historical and institutional work. He apparently sees no possibility for general theories of democracy and taxation, welfare state growth of rational governments. This aside, I recommend this book because its contents, along with further reading on other countries, may stimulate new hypotheses of a general theoretic nature.

James R. Marchand Westminster College of Salt Lake City
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Author:Marchand, James R.
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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