CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The New York Times Doesn't Like the Welfare State in the UK

The New York Times Doesn't Like the Welfare State in the UK

Wednesday, 21 July 2010 13:58

That is what readers of the article on David Cameron, the new Prime Minister would be led to believe. After all, the piece told readers that the previous Labor government's policies had turned:

"...Britain into one of the most heavily taxed, tightly regulated countries in the developed world, with government accounting for about half the work force and half of the economy."

The NYT's assertion is at odds with the data. In 2008 (the last year for which full data are available), according to the OECD, the share of government expenditures in GDP in the UK was 47.5%. This is slightly above the 45.6 percent average for the European countries in the OECD, but below the 52.7 percent share in France, the 50.1percent share in Belgium and the 48.7 percent share in Italy. In other words, the government share of the economy in the UK is somewhat above the average for wealthy European countries, but certainly not at the top in this category.

The article also told readers that government employment accounts "...for about half the work force." According to the Office of National Statistics in the U.K., public employment accounts for 21.1 percent of total employment.

The article includes numerous other comments that only serve to express disapproval of the UK welfare state rather than provide information. For example, it describes the new government's effort to "dismantle Britain’s sprawling bureaucracy." No less information would be provided without the word "sprawling."

At one point it reports on plans to establish: "...independent but publicly financed schools in which head teachers and their staff would be freed from the stifling oversight of local councils and the central education authorities." The same information could be provided without the word "stifling." 

Clearly the New York Times supports the agenda of the new government, but expressions of support for a government or political party belong the editorial page, not the front page.



Comments (8)Add Comment
The income of the average working man flattened out in 1973 and never went up in spending ability.
written by Scott ffolliott, July 21, 2010 4:03
The income of the average working man flattened out in 1973 and never went up in spending ability. (paraphrase from the recent news)

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.'
- Thomas Paine
written by PeonInChief, July 21, 2010 5:15
Tony Blair? Gordon Brown? Welfare state? We should have been so lucky.
written by izzatzo, July 21, 2010 5:47
Subjective Reporting Version:

The sprawling, stifling, suffocating suppression of government by swarming lobbyists stood out from the stench like circling vultures over a living corpse with campaign contributions.

Objective Reporting Version:

There's 100 lobbyists for each political representative, but since we have no idea what they do, we just report what they say. Big government is so big its sprawling, stifling, suffocating spending and taxing is crippling the economy more every day ...
written by Ryan Toso, July 21, 2010 5:52
Whatever. The best response to this is 'your MOM is sprawling.' I think that all mention of liberals and progressives should include the adjective 'slithering.'
written by RichB, July 22, 2010 3:01
Dean, I guess you approve, then, of able-bodied people on welfare receiving more than $200,000 a year in cash benefits? Is it maybe, just maybe, possible that the welfare system in the UK actually is too generous?
written by skeptonomist, July 22, 2010 8:31
If the share of government expenditures is 47%, it would seem that approximately that proportion of employees should be paid by the government. If only 21% are directly employed by government, this implies that the difference is being paid indirectly, that is government is paying private business to hire people.

Despite the much higher proportion of government in the economy in Europe, it seems that some people in the financial system, whether public or private, still have the freedom to create large bubbles. Maybe they are doing it with government money - as they effectively do in the US now - and maybe "independent but publicly financed" is not generally a good idea. When people go out of control it may be necessary to stifle them.

The theme that "government is too intrusive" is still being played in the media despite the obvious fact that the current crisis was due to insufficient oversight. In the marketplace of public opinion, money crowds out learning from experience.
written by ewener, July 26, 2010 10:40
It is an interesting discrepancy. If it's accurate, surely it would mean that government spending, at least in the UK, is far less efficient at creating jobs than private sector spending, by a factor of about 3. Or else public sector salaries are triple those in the private sector. Either conclusion is hard to believe.
written by Mark Maier, July 26, 2010 4:04
The print version had the title:

"Britain's Leader Carves Identify As Slasher of Government Bloat,"

Note the use of "bloat" rather than "programs," a better description of the government education and health spending that will be cut.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.