Yesterday I posted an observation about the relationship between democracy & taxes. But when compiling that data, I also pulled some data on “size of government” (as measured by the conservative Fraser Institute). Their Economic Freedom index includes a component for “size of government,” which gives a score of 10 to “small” governments and zero to “big” governments.
That relationship is even more interesting.
Again, pulling from The Economist Democracy Index (2011), I plotted country scores along the two variables: Democracy Index score and “Size of Government” score. The Fraser Institute data has fewer countries, so instead of 161 countries, this time I was only able to plot 138 countries.
Notice that the line is virtually flat. It’s slightly leaning towards the “wrong” end (democracy scores increase as size of government increases). But, statistically speaking, there is no relationship (Pearson’s r = -0.1086; p = 0.2048).
What does this mean? Well, basically, it means that there’s no reason to suggest that “size of government” has any relationship to whether a country is democratic or not. Like w/ yesterday’s data, this has no bearing on whether “big” government is “good” or not (those are ideological/philosophical debates you’re welcome to have). But, empirically, the evidence doesn’t support the assertion that “big” governments are bad for democracy.
For example, which countries scored the “best” according to the Fraser Institute in terms of “size of government”? Here’s the list of countries that scored a 9 (no country scored a 10):
- El Salvador
And here’s the countries that scored the “worst” in terms of the “size of government,” according to the Fraser Institute:
- Sweden (3)
- The Netherlands (3)
For comparison, the United States scored a 7.
(I should note that the Fraser Institute did not give scores to a number of countries, including North Korea and Cuba. But the list of excluded countries also includes “small” states like Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.)