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The federal budget, a long-sought goal of fiscal reformers, became a reality with the passage of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. This paper is concerned with one of the key expectations of the reformers, that the adoption of a formal budget would produce better estimates of federal revenues and expenditures. The conclusion is that there is little evidence of a dramatic improvement that could be attributed to the reform, although there is some evidence that the quality of the estimates improved over the long run. The paper then discusses the reasons for and implications of this finding.
The Journal of Economic History © 1985 Economic History Association