Archive for November 9th, 2020

For those still fixated on last week’s election, my analysis can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

I’m now returning to my normal pattern of pontificating on public policy.

Today we’re going to look at which nations that make it more lucrative to be a bureaucrat rather than take a job in the productive sector of the economy.

I sort of wrote about this topic back in 2013 when I looked at cross-country data on the overall cost of bureaucrat salaries, as well as the number of bureaucrats as a share of the labor force.

But that’s hardly a perfect measure since it doesn’t tell us how much bureaucrats are compensated compared to workers in the private sector.

So I was very interested to see a fascinating report that investigates this issue from the European Data Journalism Network.

The first couple of charts in the report basically replicate the data I shared back in 2013, but then we get some data showing how much bureaucrats get paid compared to per-capita GDP in each country.

Here are some of the highlights (keep in mind that “liberal” in Europe actually refers to pro-market “classical liberals“).

…liberals are always complaining that there are too many employees in the public sector. So, from country to country, what is the scale of public employment in Europe? …by deploying a number of indicators it becomes possible to paint a fairly complete portrait of the situation. …To…better quantify public sector salaries, there are many indicators at our disposal. The first is provided by the ratio of public sector salaries to GDP per capita. This brings into relief the countries where public employees come out rather poorly compared to the rest of the population (notably in the Nordic countries and the UK) and the countries where public employees on the whole are better off (first and foremost the countries of southern Europe).

Here’s the relevant chart, which shows that it’s very lucrative to be a bureaucrat in Greece, Italy, and Spain, but it’s more lucrative to be in the private sector in Nordic nations.

I view this as more proof for my argument that the Nordic countries are much more market oriented than most people think.

But what about America?

The U.S.A. wasn’t mentioned in the EDJN report, but if you go to the French-language study that was the main source for the EDJN report, you’ll find that there is data for America.

As you can see from this graph, the United States (États-Unis) isn’t as bad as the Mediterranean nations of Southern Europe, but American bureaucrats definitely are overpaid compared to their counterparts in many other countries.

By the way, I have a video that specifically examines the American data and it has lots of supporting data on how government bureaucrats are overpaid.

It’s 10 years old, but more-recent data further confirms that bureaucrat compensation is excessive.

P.S. Even research from the International Monetary Fund finds negative results from too much bureaucracy.

P.P.S. Why are there negative results if bureaucrats are overpaid? For the simple reason that an economy’s output is a function of the quality and quantity of labor and capital. So it stands to reason that economic performance will suffer if excessive compensation lures people out of the productive sector and into the government workforce.

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