CAN GOVERNMENTS GO BANKRUPT? by Richard & Guy Peters Rose


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Foul! Someone--perhaps in search of a selling point--has left a key qualifier out of the title; this is not a book about the New York City near-bankruptcy or its like. It is, instead, about ""political"" bankruptcy, a vastly different though related phenomenon. Rose and Peters, directors of policy studies institutes at the universities of Strathclyde and Tulane, respectively, use this term to refer to loss of authority, and tie this loss to the inability to effectively manage the fiscal affairs of state. After dismissing--too quickly--economic bankruptcy as an impossibility for a nation-state, they argue that the real problem is that Western governments are now committed to spending more money on public welfare programs than they can expect to raise in taxes, and that the future, unlike the past, will present a choice between cutting these programs or cutting take-home pay. The danger, as they see it, is citizen indifference to a financially crippled state; they are apparently blind to tax revolts, which are anything but indifferent. Their simple argument, tiringly repeated in each chapter, rests entirely on a myopic view of government as a distributive mechanism. Rather than discuss the possibility of transforming state structures or democratizing management, they counsel elites on how to stay in power--in this case they should cut welfare, not take-home pay. A broader and far more penetrating study is lames O'Connors' 1973 The Fiscal Crisis of the State.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books