Economics - General

Will the Welfare State Cause the Next Great Depression?

According to Robert Samuelson’s article in the Wilson Quarterly, the answer is yes.

Just as the gold standard amplified and transmitted the effects of the Depression, so the modern welfare state is magnifying the effects of the recession. The United States, Europe, and Japan, together representing about half of the world economy, face similar pressures: aging societies, high government spending, and soaring debt levels. These pressures impose austerity on country after country—just as the gold standard did. The cumulative effect is to make it harder for the world to recover from what started as an ordinary, though severe, recession—just as happened under the gold standard…What has brought the welfare state to grief is not an excess of compassion, but an excess of debt.

Alex Tabarrok would certainly agree.


  1. “what started as an ordinary, though severe, recession”

    A recession with record levels of personal debt, an international banking crisis and high levels of public debt. The last ordinary recession which even remotely mirrors ours would be the one that started in 1929.


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