Research Desk responds: How do various countries' spending compare?
By Dylan Matthews
i've been searching for a good chart showing government spending (at all levels) as percentage of gdp for all countries
This is the chart you're looking for (all data courtesy of the OECD, and you can click the graph to enlarge):
I've added in spending to get a fuller picture. Obviously, there are some idiosyncrasies. Norway runs a huge surplus due to its oil wealth, which it invests over the long term. Iceland ran a huge deficit in 2008 to overcome its uniquely awful financial situation. But overall, the trends are as you would expect. France, Sweden, and Denmark spend the most, the U.K. and Germany are in the middle, and the U.S., Canada and Japan are toward the low end of the spectrum.
Importantly, the OECD includes spending on all levels of government, including U.S. states and municipalities, which emphasizes that the differences across countries tend to be more minor than they initially appear. The U.S., for example, spends about as much as a percentage of its GDP as Canada and Spain, and only about 5 percent less than the U.K., all of which have more generous welfare states than the U.S. But because of other countries' greater centralization, this point can be obscured when you only look at U.S. federal spending.
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