FIGURE 2-1 Federal government spending by function, 1962-2007.

FIGURE 2-1 Federal government spending by function, 1962-2007.


The list of values that are applicable to assessing budgets is potentially long (see, e.g., Yankelovich, 1994). We consider five that have been most prominent in recent budget debates: (1) equity or fairness, (2) economic growth, (3) efficiency, (4) physical security, and (5) the size of government.


For many people, the distribution of public burdens and benefits is a principal measure of social justice (see, e.g., Penner, 2004; Rawls, 2001). Of course, people disagree sharply on what is fair and, looking at the same budget, will disagree in their assessments of its fairness.

Budgets affect the distribution of private income and wealth. At various times in the nation’s history and again in the past decade, many people have expressed concern about increases in U.S. income inequality and a lack of

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