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Samizdata quote of the day – economic dynamism

Ah! A testable proposition. So, currently the UK government takes 45% of everything, 45% of all economic effort and GDP.

The US government – at all levels – consumes about 28% of GDP, the Indonesian about 11% (yes, 11%) and Singapore’s some 17% or so.

So it would seem that economic dynamism is indeed associated with less than the UK’s confiscatory tax rates. Even, that fructifying idea has some empirical legs.

As ever, all economics is either footnotes to Adam Smith or wrong.

Tim Worstall

42 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – economic dynamism

  • Steven R

    God only demands 10%.

  • Kirk

    Past a certain point, the “government cut” turns into a black hole, and sucks everything else in until it collapses the system.

    I’d strongly suggest that the more money and power you put into a system, the less you get out of it in terms of benefits. Sure, the NHS is a beloved system, but… It’s also a huge component of why the UK government sucks in so many resources. You want to cut that percentage of resources? You’ll have to wean yourselves off the NHS.

    Which, judging by most of the Brits I’ve run into, ain’t happening.

  • I sneeze in threes

    What about the horrendous purchase and property taxes the states and counties add on. What does that do to the Yank figure?

    If I’ve understood this then that another 19%


  • bobby b

    “If I’ve understood this then that another 19%”

    Unless you live in a high tax state (like mine, Minnesota). 26% on top of fed tax. We are very close to the UK tax burden here.

    And then you have sales taxes, vehicle and fuel taxes, alcohol and cig and pot taxes . . . .

  • bobby b

    Might have to amend what I said above. Worstell did say “The US government – at all levels – consumes about 28% of GDP . . .” So, did his number include state and local? If so, then ignore what I said.

  • Mark

    Doesn’t the US spend something like twice the percentage of GDP on health care as pretty well any other industrialised economy for, well, pretty much the same outcome?

    I believe pricing of healthcare is such a labyrinthine maze that something like a third of all US health spending (I think, please correct me if wrong) is devoted to this alone.

    Oh I’m not defending the blessed NHS, the “envy of the world”, believe me!

    But US vs UK healthcare is just about the worst example imaginable of using either to argue the superiority of private over state (or vice verca).

    @Bobby B

    There is the headline figure of course, whatever that may be, but there are many ways the blob can cause economic carnage, with all that entails, for minimal headline spending.

    A favourite, a positive fetish here, is the ongoing war on the private car, manifested through a determination (among other things!) to make it as difficult as possible to park in town and city centres.

    Given the margins most retailers have, it doesn’t take much at all to drive them out of business, and the town centre dies.

    But having done this, the resulting fetid corpse can support an impressive menagerie of blowflies and maggots (and don’t get me started on the feather bedded pensions associated).

    Only they, the SO intelligent and far seeing, can put this right of course.

    They make a desolation and they call it our fault!

  • Jon Mors

    I’d suggest that the impact on productivity is correlated more strongly with the proportion of the population employed by the State, than it is with public expenditure per se. Although a lot of the tax intake gets paid out in pensions, I don’t see that as being economically distorting necessarily.

  • APL

    “So it would seem that economic dynamism is indeed associated with less than the UK’s confiscatory tax rates.”

    It’s a pity then, that the British have such a bloodthirsty ruling elite, who have spent the Nations clear technological and human resource to promote their numerous wars and conflicts, our confiscatory tax rates are a direct result of the British ruling class’s ravenous appetite for bloody destructive war.

    If it were simply a matter of public or private enterprise, that might be a thing. But since it’s not, our ruinous rates of tax are a direct result of borrowing today to fund unnecessary wars, at the expense of the economy, tomorrow.

    Well; Welcome to tomorrow.

    God only demands 10%.

    Satan demands everything.

  • Bulldog Drummond

    our confiscatory tax rates are a direct result of the British ruling class’s ravenous appetite for bloody destructive war.

    Don’t make me laugh, that’s scrag end leftovers compared to the cost of the welfare state.

  • Sam Duncan

    our confiscatory tax rates are a direct result of the British ruling class’s ravenous appetite for bloody destructive war

    Are they, now?

  • Then there is the difference between the governments “ask” and the peoples “bid”. in the ’50s, the top U.S. marginal tax rate bobbled about in the 90-95% range. It’s currently 37%. Interestingly, through all that, the governments take bobbled about from 18-21% on a pretty flat curve. Peoples behavior changes with changes in the rules, and fairly rapidly at that. FWIW, the Chicago mob understands that you can’t demand more than 20% before the marks simply disappear and your take goes to zero.

  • Paul Marks

    “The U.S. government, at all levels, consumes 28% of GDP”.

    It that is supposed to mean that government spending in the United States, local-State-and-Federal, is only 28% of GDP – the figure is bovine excrement.

    As for Singapore – the figure is somewhat distorted by not taking account of “compulsory saving” in a government fund, but it is the American figure that is really stupid.

    Stop quoting American government (and the statistics of international bodies – as they just republish American government numbers) statistics, they are absurd lies, whether it is government spending as a percentage of GDP, historic temperature figures, or anything else.

    If anyone really believes that local, State and Federal government spending in the United States is “28% of GDP” then I have a nice bridge to sell them.

  • Paul Marks

    On Indonesia – the latest government spending figures I have seen are 18% of GDP, although it is possible that Mr Worstall means “taxation not counting oil money” in which case one can present a figure of about 10% of GDP.

    By the way – “GDP” is a terrible measure of economic health, for example the American economy is collapsing but “GDP” keeps going up. Any form of spending, including government spending on many millions of illegal immigrants, counts as “GDP”. It has nothing to do with American industry doing well – even by the rigged figures of the United States government American industry is not doing well (to put the matter mildly).

    As for the United Kingdom – yes the position of government spending is a total disaster here, as it is all large Western nations.

    Fiat (command-order) money always leads to this, without fiat money it would be impossible for the state to take on all the basic functions of Civil Society – education, old age provision, health care, and-so-on. Basically Civil Society no longer exists in most “advanced” nations now – the state is “all-in-all”.

  • APL

    Are they, now?

    That is a fun interesting resource, thank you. Cutting the data for a different time frame. The UK obviously spent well in excess of it’s ability in 1914-1918, and again in 1939-1945. Then something odd happened in 1970 – which I guess was the removal by Nixon of the restraint of the Gold standard.

    So, while ( domestic ) military, healthcare and welfare have grown in a more or less linear fashion, it’s the debt that appears to have grown exponentially since 1970. One wonders what the politicians have been spending it all on ?

    Kuwait liberation, eight year occupation of Iraq, NATO and UN contributions, Twenty year campaign along side our American masters in Afghanistan, and now Ukraine, which were all apparently going to be conscripted for. Thanks but no.

  • Paul Marks

    APL – the idea that military spending is the cause of British problems is false. Indeed military spending has never been a smaller (smaller – not bigger) proportion of government spending than it is now.

    As for President Nixon – he cut military spending, and the “gold standard” had been a legal fiction since 1933.

    To blame the military, rather than the Welfare State, for such things as the debt shows willful blindness. Such things as British spending in Afghanistan were little more than a rounding error – smaller than a couple of weeks of “lockdown”.

    By the way – to anyone who comes back to me and says “Mr Worstall did not mean how much government consumes – he meant taxation alone”.

    I see – so people in London pay dramatically higher taxes than people in New York City, and people in Hertfordshire and Surrey pay dramatically higher taxes than people in Connecticut and New Jersey?

    Pull the other one – it has got bells on.

  • Paul Marks

    The central problem that all major Western countries face is the usurping of the basic functions of Civil Society by the state.

    To blame the military or wars is both false and misses the basic point (see above).

    And to pretend that the American position is dramatically better than the British position is also false.

    Once upon a time, say 1960, it was dramatically better than the British position – back in 1960 even Food Stamps, let alone Medicare and Medicaid (and on and on) did not exist. But 2024 is not 1960 – and people should not pretend that America is even a relatively small government society, it is not.

  • Paul Marks

    The real advantages that America still has over Britain are vastly greater natural resources and much lower population density – more farm land relative to the size of the population.

    Do not pretend that it is a small government society – it is not.

  • APL

    “As for President Nixon – he cut military spending, and the “gold standard” had been a legal fiction since 1933.”

    Yes, the president that shut down the Vietnam war. US Military spending declined as a result. Until 1970 the US had a stipulated fixed exchange rate for Gold, which may well have been more of an aspiration, but when the French tried to take the US up on the deal, Nixon dropped off the Gold peg, that was in 1970.

    “To blame the military, rather than the Welfare State, for such things as the debt shows willful blindness.”

    Firstly, look at the graph Sam Duncan provided, the military, welfare and Health care have been increasing in a linear manner. It’s the government debt that’s increasing exponentially. So what are they spending it on if not welfare and Health ?

    Are you seriously proposing, Britain financed 8 years in Iraq and 20 years in Afghanistan without any visible impact to military spending? ( Blue on the linked graph ).

    “Such things as British spending in Afghanistan were little more than a rounding error – smaller than a couple of weeks of “lockdown”.”

    Then it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to find the figures for the cost of UK campaign in Afganistan? Sam Duncan at least, has provided something to discuss.

  • Sam Duncan

    So, while ( domestic ) military, healthcare and welfare have grown in a more or less linear fashion, it’s the debt that appears to have grown exponentially since 1970. One wonders what the politicians have been spending it all on ?

    Servicing the debt. That’s why it’s exponential. It’s not exactly compound interest in the way a bank loan is, but the effect is the same.

  • JohnK

    President Nixon broke the dollar’s link to gold on 15th August 1971. It was described as a “temporary” measure, so I am sure we all hope the link will be restored soon, though in the interim gold now trades at about $2000/ounce.

    It was always rather fake to make one nation’s currency the reserve currency for the world. It was not what Keynes wanted, but the USA insisted on it at Bretton Woods. At the time their economy constituted 50% of the world economy, and they owned 20,000 tons of gold, so it made sense. By 1971 the gold stock was down to 8,000 tons, and Nixon’s decision to close the gold window was very popular in America, whose people objected to having to pay for their imports in real money, as opposed to green coupons they could print at will.

    If America had not persuaded Saudi Arabia to accept only dollars for oil, in return for security guarantees, then the dollar’s reserve status may have ended there and then. But it has lasted, so far. At present the world’s reserve currency is backed by no reserves of anything. An odd situation, it must be said. Although as Krugman has said, it is backed by men with guns. Not the best sort of backing, I’d have thought.

  • Fraser Orr

    TBH, I don’t really fully understand the point being made. If he is saying that the higher the government take the less prosperous the country, then the data given doesn’t support that. Indonesia, which apparently takes 11% is certainly not as prosperous as Britain.

    However, I think that is more because Indonesia is a bubbling hub of activity, and Britain a sclerotic shadow if itself. So you have to count the starting point too.

    I don’t believe the US government numbers. I looked up some details. US GDP (all numbers in trillions of dollars) was $25, the federal budget was $6.3, which, based on the constant drama around increasing the debt limit, is probably at best an optimistic guess. Based on wikipedia the total state budgets are $2.4. Putting the total number at 35% of GDP.

    The British number is also unfairly higher because it includes the NHS which the others don’t, but a quick bit of math suggests that the NHS costs about 6% of the UK’s GDP. US healthcare costs are approximately double this as a percentage of GDP, so if we include that in the US number we get UK at 45%, US at 47% when including healthcare costs.

    The United States, land of small government, live free or die, self determination and self responsibility, is one of the highest taxed places in the world. And with the UK at least you can scarper off to Monaco and get some tax relief. The IRS stalks you to the end of the earth.

    BTW, Americans, these numbers indicate that your government spends about $70,000 for each household in the USA. Way more than the average household earns. I think that is shocking.

  • Tim Worstall

    “So, did his number include state and local? If so, then ignore what I said.”

    Yes and yes. 18% or so at Federal level, another 10% (of GDP, not tax rates) at State and local.

  • Kirk

    Vis-a-vis all the government spending… You have to recognize that domesticating wild animals ain’t cheap, and that’s precisely what they’ve been doing with their electorates.

    Also, wonder why the birth rates are where they are? Why shouldn’t they be? The all-powerful government (that has usurped the role of family) is there to do the job that the kids you should have had would have been doing, in a functional traditional society. So, not only are all those social welfare taxes making it too expensive to have kids, the social welfare itself makes having them unnecessary… Which is why these social Ponzi schemes never work out over the long haul. The demographic decline of the modern “birth dearth” is largely rooted in these factors, and the only things our idiot “elite” can think of to do about it is double-down on the taxes and social benefits…

    The whole system is going to have to crash in order to utterly discredit these morons, but the problem is, after it happens? Nobody will remember just what went wrong, and they’ll only do it again and again. We’re re-enacting the Late Roman Empire era in all too many ways, right down to the invasion of the barbarians.

    Idiots. They have all the right credentials and certifications, but they’ve never had to think and observe the effects of their decisions. You can see the crash coming a mile off, but getting anyone to pay attention to it? LOL… Good ‘effing luck.

  • Paul Marks

    APL – you are blaming war and military spending for the expansion of government, and you are wrong.

    Not only is military spending a very small proportion of government spending, but Sweden (which avoided war) had government growth that was much the same (if not worse) than other Western countries.

    Tim Worstall – if you really think that total government spending in the United States is 28% of GDP then you are wrong.

    As for “economics is either footnotes to Adam Smith or it is wrong”.

    Well Professor Smith was wrong about the Labour Theory of Value, he was wrong about government provided infrastructure, and he was wrong about banking.

    How absurd does an official statistic have to be before you understand it is fake?

  • Alan Peakall

    Kirk, “Why are birth rates where they are?”; I think zoologists label it difficulties with captive breeding.

  • APL

    “you are blaming war and military spending for the expansion of government, and you are wrong.”

    It is possible that I’m wrong. But war makes a good excuse to expand government, so I don’t think so.

    But as I asked you earlier, as you maintain the spending on Iraq and Afghanistan was barely ‘a rounding error’, then you should be able to provide actual figures to corroborate your assertion.

    It seems to me, that from the data kindly provided by Sam Duncan, it is not possible to deny that UK government spending went up by around five hundred percent during 1914 – 1919 to around £500bn and doubled again in 1939 – 45 to over £1000bn, it’s not a coincidence those were the war years. It’s even reflected in the data for military spending. It looks like the borrowing was on a downward trend until around 1991, and then spending took off like a rocket in 2008. We know what that was, the financiers filling their pockets at our expense.

    And in 2019 you’ve got the COVID fiasco, because, we’ve got to pay off Big Pharma ( everyone wants an exotic autoimmune condition ) too.

  • Paul Marks

    APL – as I have already said, Sweden had similar (if not more extreme) growth in government spending in the 20th century, without going to war.

    Of course military spending went up during war – and it went down again afterwards. It is the WELFARE STATE, the usurpation of the basic functions of Civil Society (leading to the destruction of Civil Society) that is behind the growth in government.

    This does not mean that the World Wars could not have been avoided – had Britain taken a firm line against the expansion of Prussia in the 19th century (the conquest of Hanover and other lands) it is quite possible that Bismarck could have been deterred. And even Bismarck was horrified by the expansionism of the new regime (that of Wilhelm the Second) which seemed fanatically determined to crush everyone else in Europe – indeed much wider than Europe (the concept of Geopolitics).

    As for the Second World War – it could indeed have been prevented, both in 1936 (the Rhineland) and 1938 (Austria and Czechoslovakia) the German Army was unprepared for war (the German tanks broke down on the way to Prague). Ironically it was the desperate efforts of Neville Chamberlain to prevent war that made war certain. A harder line, as supported by (for example) his half brother Austin Chamberlain (who died too early), might well have prevented war.

    As for Adam Smith…..

    Most of the things he wrote were true, but they had already been written by others (to be fair – Professor Smith never denies that), it is only when he produces original doctrines that the problems start.

  • Paul Marks

    It used to be considered that E.H. Carr was the leading historian of both National Socialist Germany and the Soviet Union – his works are now, quite correctly, considered worthless.

    Why? Because he believed the statistics (in the leather bound books) of the powers he was studying – and based his work on those published social and economic statistics – and those numbers were fake.

  • Kirk

    Paul Marks said:

    The central problem that all major Western countries face is the usurping of the basic functions of Civil Society by the state.

    I dunno… I think that the term “Civil Society” means “government” to most people, already. What functions of such a thing are not already carried out by government entities?

    The root problem isn’t the quantity of this “Civil Society” is performed by “government”, but the entire concept that these “functions of society” are the sole purview of the government in the first damn place. It’s the “…there oughta be a law…” mentality that’s the basic problem, not the government itself.

    Two things are at play here: One, people are convinced that all things are perfectable, and two, the tool to use in perfecting them is “government”. News flash, for ya: Indigent drug users being vagrants on your city sidewalks are not something you can deal with via the good offices of “government”. The actual problem goes waaaaaaay back, to when those now-indigent POS types were being raised and educated by their likely similarly feckless parents. Somewhere along the line, they got the idea that such conduct was A-OK, and socially acceptable. So, that’s how they behave… You can’t “govern” your way out of that crap; those people are essentially non-fixable. The only thing government can do is say “Yeah… You? You’re not defecating on our streets, and if you do decide to continue doing that, you’re going into a work camp… Where you’re not going to get to live how you like.”

    That’s about all government can do; it can’t “fix” these people any more than anyone else can, so when you demand “something be done”, guess what? It’s either going to be ineffectual, or it’s gonna be nasty and draconian as hell. People didn’t want the insane locked up in those nice mental hospitals we used to have, and so where are those insane these days? On the street, and in prison…

    Government is a tool, and not a very good one. You can do some big worthwhile things with it, but an awful lot of the minute daily operating sorts of things? Not gonna work. Some things you just have to recognize as being beyond helping, and just do the clean-up. A lot of these “homeless” are out there on the streets, and will not ever get their lives in order. The kindest thing to do, for everyone? As one of my friends, a former touchy-feely type put it, “Outlaw Narcan, and give ’em all free hot and cold running Fentanyl… That’s the only way to fix it.”

  • phwest

    Fraser – when gauging government share of the economy it matters very much what you are measuring. Look at government medical spending. You have direct government spending (VA, state & county hospitals and such) where the government is providing medical services, employees the staff and pays for the facilities. That is clearly government consumption of resources. However most of Medicare is not that – there you have private individuals making decisions to secure care from private providers, but under the auspices of government. In this case government “consumption” is only the staff required to manage the flow of payments. You wouldn’t (at least I hope this is true) credit an insurance company with the economic value of all of the activity they underwrite – that would seem to me to be double counting.

    I would thus suspect that the 28% number for the US reflects only government spending required to deliver services. US government is quite fond of incentivizing economic activity rather than directly providing it. The UK obviously has been a lot more willing to have the government directly provide services (not just medical care, my sense is that government provides a lot more housing in the UK – council estates – that in the US, where public housing was more or less a disaster and is being replaced by subsidized rentals of private properties (section 8)). Things like this are the bane of any comparison across countries – the numbers you are comparing almost certainly are collected using different assumptions about what to include or not, and involve gray areas that might or might not be included that are not equally present even if consistent decisions are made on what to include.

    For what it’s worth, I think government statistics in the West are generally honest. Their validity is a separate question. Any measurement system involves choices about the inclusion and classification of data that will influence the suitability of the resulting data for the analysis of any particular question (the map is not the territory). And having established your criteria, actors in the system will, over time, learn to exploit the criteria in support of their own agendas (this is true in any enterprise, not just government). In extreme cases this can make the data basically useless (think Soros DAs and crime statistics involving decisions to prosecute), but by and large they are an accurate collection of information based on a given set of rules. If you see something you think is odd or incredible, you should first assume that you do not understand what the data actually represent, not that the data are faked.

  • phwest

    To expound further on my point above, the best skeptics of data are those who understand the weaknesses of the data and can use that to point out where it is being used to draw conclusions that are not supported. A good example of this is the analysis the siting of temperature measurement stations to show the changes in the local environment over time. A formerly rural location that has seen its surroundings urbanize will show an increase in temperature readings regardless of any global trend. That doesn’t mean the data collected are faked – they are still accurate recordings of the temperature at that station. They just aren’t suitable for use in an analysis of global temperature trends. Pointing out the widespread existence of this issue has convinced me that any analysis of aggregated ground station data over time is likely worthless. Scientists who knowingly use such data for that purpose are being dishonest, but they aren’t fabricating the data.

  • Kirk

    phwest said:

    For what it’s worth, I think government statistics in the West are generally honest.

    Here speaks a man who has never once been involved with or really examined how those statistics are gathered.

    I’ve been around the scene when several sets of data were gathered; the validity of that data was questionable at the time, and remains so.

    Casual acquaintance of mine was one of the biologists working on the Spotted Owl studies, back in the day. She did the work on gathering the population data for several critical areas, and retained her notes and field books. When she went to look at the actual data as reported to Congress, none of her data was as she recorded and reported it; it had all been “normed” by someone between her and the final report such that the populations of Spotted Owls were significantly lower than she’d found and reported.

    That’s one. Forest Service apparently did that, because that’s where the numbers got “massaged”.

    Second, if you look at local weather data, we have a weather station that has been reporting to the National Weather Service since around the early 1900s. When it was established, it was in the middle of orchards and other agricultural-use land. Today, it is in the middle of the city that’s grown out around it. Logically, you would think that if anything, they’d be “norming” the new temperatures down, to account for the urban heat island effect. They have not; what they did was go back and “norm” the old temperatures so as to be colder, which effectively erased the heat records that were set back in the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl era. I’ve seen the records from one of the local orchardists who has kept their own weather records from that era, and they’re completely different than from the numbers that the NWS now reports for their station. Once upon a time, they weren’t…

    Third lie? Go to the grocery store. Note anything about the prices? Do you want to keep making believe you can “trust” the government’s lies about the actual rate of inflation? On food costs?

    Same with employment numbers. Has there been a single month since the Biden Krime Krewe took over that they haven’t had to go back and “adjust” the jobs numbers they initially reported? Does that strike you as “statistically likely”, if they’re being honest about anything at all?

    No, you trust the stats from any of these entities at your peril. I won’t even get into the lies told outside the US, like the ones about child mortality, where they don’t count certain classes of dead babies as “live births” and then get them off the books for infant mortality. Or, the situation in some parts of Japan, where they don’t bother to check on pensioners for actually being alive, given that they get rewarded by the central government for how many oldsters they still have on the books…

    I don’t know about all the stats, but I do know that everywhere I have personal knowledge of accurate numbers, they are telling lies of various degrees. When I used to work as an Army recruiter, we were tasked by our bosses based on the numbers of students we had in local high schools. Those numbers that the Army used to do that? They were the ones the state reported to the Feds in order to get subsidies. They weren’t accurate, at all; the student population was lower, and the scores on the tests that they used to gauge the quality of the students available to us were all lies, sometimes huge ones. You’d go talk to the school secretaries, and they’d flat-out admit that everything they reported to the state was a tissue of lies, in order to retain all their state and Federal subsidies.

    What you have to admit to yourself is that whenever there is an incentive to lie, the numbers are going to be fudged, all the way down to where they gather them. You can’t avoid that; the people doing the reporting know that they’re going to get less money when they report certain things, so they report the things that get them the money. Or, which support their programs…

    Frankly, I think that the statistics community should acknowledge this factor when they do their calculations. Call it “Variable F-for-fudge”, and account for how much perverse incentive exists in the system for the people gathering the data to report falsely. You can kind of do that, if you’ve personal experience with the environment all this happens in, but… What you cannot do is take any of the numbers at face value, credulously. There are incentives throughout the system to lie, lie, lie…

  • Fraser Orr

    @PH West, thanks, you are right I did double count a little bit. And I entirely agree with your sentiments about data. One additional thing though — your point about counting being mostly accurate, however what counts to be counted is often buried in the footnotes — is most likely correct. However, that is raw data, I think it is clear that when raw data is processed into presentable data it is far more subject to shenanigans. Oftentimes the people doing data analysis have a bit of plausible deniability — they have a story they tell, at least to themselves, about why they are making changes in the way they are, even though they are often based on some very shaky foundations, and often come with hidden agendas.

    Two obvious examples would be the shenanigans at the East Anglia CRU — in this case the shenanigans got made public unwillingly — one wonders what other similar situations were not made public. And another great example of this is the gerrymandering of electoral districts. Are the counts accurate, probably fairly accurate. Do the people doing it think they have a good reason for the weirdly shaped districts — I’m sure they give a great explanation to themselves when looking in the bathroom mirror. Is there a huge hidden agenda. Hell yeah.

    As the saying goes, lies, damn lies and statistics.

  • Paul Marks

    For the record – even Wikipedia (hardly a right wing Paul Marks style site) lists government spending in the United States for 2022 (the most recent available year) as 38.5% GDP.

    In the United Kingdom total government spending is 45% of GDP and in the United States about 39% of GDP – this does not seem far from the truth.

  • jgh

    Regarding food inflation, I’m one of those nerds that keeps all their food receipts and types them into a spreadsheet. These are the real world weekly food spend I have actually expended. It’s not the end of fiscal 2023/24 yet, so I’ve artificially added three months to the last line.

    2013-2014 £26.11
    2014-2015 £17.52 -32.9%
    2015-2016 £20.42 +16.5%
    2016-2017 £26.13 +28.0%
    2017-2018 £20.28 -22.4%
    2018-2019 £24.50 +20.8%
    2019-2020 £24.73 +0.9%
    2020-2021 £21.18 -14.3%
    2021-2022 £23.32 +10.1%
    2022-2023 £27.98 +20.0%
    2023-2024 £23.39 -16.4%

  • APL

    JGH “These are the real world weekly food spend I have actually expended.”

    I don’t know what you are eating, JGH, but it must be Trill ?

    That, in no way reflects my experience.

    A gallon of Olive oil has doubled / tripled in price in the last three years. ( a gallon will last us two or three months )

    And it’s undoubtedly the case that packages have shrunk, although you pay the same price for an item.

  • jgh

    You eat olive oil? Aughegh!!!

    Ok, January’s receipts, which I haven’t typed up yet:
    Hot pork sandwich, milk, chocolate, biscuits, biscuits, sardines, sardines, chicken, fruit pies, biscuits, biscuits, biscuits, sardines, sardines, sardines, mackeral, toothpaste, milk, sweets, marge, bacon, milk, bread, juice, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, mango, sardines, sardines, cheese, fruit pies, mints, rennies, bacon, milk, bread, biscuits, apple pies, cream, bacon sandwiche, quiche, chocolate bun, bread, mints, sweets, sweets, sardines, sardines, sardines, milk, mnts, sweets, sweets, roast chicken dinner, potatoes, sausages, cauliflower, sprouts, milk, bread, tea bags, cheese, chicken, chicken, rennies, mackeral, biscuits, biscuits. £102ish.

  • Paul Marks


    I am not sure about the United Kingdom (even though I live here), but I do know that the American inflation rate numbers are systematically rigged – as are so many American statistics.

    This is why most Americans get poorer each year, whilst the government and the corporations (public-private partnership) keep saying “our figures show you are better off than you have ever been”.

    They lie and people suffer – and that is why I get irritated with people who repeat their lies as truth.

  • Paul Marks

    It would be interesting to know where-from Tim Worstall got the utterly false idea that total government spending in the United States, Federal, State and local, is 28% (rather than around 39%) of GDP.

    I must stress that I am NOT suggesting that the Gentleman made up the figure himself – some source has lied to him, and he has (in all good faith) passed on the lie.

  • APL

    jgh: “You eat olive oil? Aughegh!!!”

    I rather like Italy, and have picked up some of their foreign preferences. 😊

    Off topic of the thread subject. Was it Snorri who thought everyone is mad because of their diet? At the time, I thought it not beyond the realms of possibility, but an eccentric opinion. Then, today by way of Denniger

  • You eat olive oil? Aughegh!!!

    I find the notion of anyone not using olive oil astonishing, but then I’m a toff 😀

  • Tim Worstall

    The OECD is always a useful source of economic numbers.

    “It would be interesting to know where-from Tim Worstall got the utterly false idea that total government spending in the United States, Federal, State and local, is 28% (rather than around 39%) of GDP.”

    The OECD:


    “The OECD’s annual Revenue Statistics report found that the tax-to-GDP ratio in the United States increased by 1.2 percentage points from 26.5% in 2021 to 27.7% in 2022.”

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