The world's most depressing chart?

That's what Dan Mitchell of International Liberty calls the graph below, showing the share of public welfare spending as a percent of GDP of the leading economies of the world.  Andrew Bolt of the Herald-Sun in Australia simply calls it "The Free Money Explosion."

Originally created by Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Rosen for the site Our World in Data, it does seem to show that two inflection points, the first around 1930 and the second around 1960, drove social welfare spending's share of the economy way up.  The cause of the  first is obvious: the worldwide economic depression, in which survival was at stake for many.

The second acceleration is less obvious.  Perhaps it is related to the advent of television, with its capacity to show middle-class people the lives of those who have missed out on prosperity.  I well remember the showing of documentaries on U.S. television featuring poverty in Appalachia, the Deep South, and other areas, where the lives of the "have-nots" came into the living rooms of America.

Robert Kennedy was among those politicians who were passionate about exposing deprivation, and he did so with well publicized tours of the impoverished areas of America.

I do not know if the other nations on the chart experienced similar "consciousness raising" of poverty within their borders.  Maybe something else entirely was at work.  But upward trajectory of social welfare spending was widespread at the time.

I am sure many readers will find interesting points on this chart.  One that stands out for me is the fact that Canada actually spends less than the United States.  I wonder if medical spending is excluded from the source data?

South Korea's inclusion is fascinating, as its growth has been meteoric, but at much lower levels of spending.  Yet the chart shows the same trend line upward.

Maybe it is simply a matter of countries achieving basic economic security for most of their citizens, and then turning toward help for those left behind.

For those on the left, I suppose this chart is happy, not depressing.

Hat tip: John McMahon

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