This note describes how research on the link between economic openness and government size has changed over time. Early interpretations suggested that countries develop welfare states to compensate for volatility caused by economic openness (the compensation hypothesis). Recent findings have cast doubts on this interpretation. For example, more open economies are on average not more volatile, and economic openness does not unambiguously increase the social security demands from voters. Some recent studies suggest that economic openness is particularly beneficial for countries with high taxes and high‐income equality. A re‐interpretation of the compensation hypothesis is thus possible: Through trade, the citizens in large welfare states enjoy some of the benefits associated with cheap labour and high wage dispersion despite their domestic economy being characterized by high real wages, high taxes and a compressed wage distribution.
Scandinavian Political Studies
The Compensation Hypothesis Revisited and Reversed