Many outside the academic community probably did not know of former University of Texas at Dallas economist Gerald Scully, but he passed away this week. He was a pioneer in examining the relationship between government size and economic growth. His most accessilble work was published through the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, and a bibliography can be found here.
Two studies are worth reading in today's political environment where debt is increasing at historically dramatic rates. The first (and most recent) is an analysis of "optimal" government size and economic growth in the U.S. Scully found that some government services were important for promoting growth (e.g., enforcing the law and defense), but beyond a combined tax burden of 19.3 percent of GDP for federal, state, and local government the rate of economic growth fell.
The second study examined inequality, economic growth, and economic freedom. In a cross-national study, Scully found those nation's with the highest economic freedom, and lower tax burdens, produced the most growth and helped the poor the most.
I didn't know Scully personally, but I relied quite a bit on his work.
He will be missed, particularly now.
John Goodman has nice write up on his blog at NCPA here.