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How Federalism Protects Future Generations from Today's Public Debts


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  • Eichenberger Reiner

    (University of Fribourg and CREMA — Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts)

  • Stadelmann David

    (University of Fribourg and CREMA — Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts)


From the politico-economic perspective, federalism is a protector of the present generation. But what about future generations? In federal states, Ricardian equivalence cannot be assumed to work properly, as migration between local jurisdictions undermines intergenerational redistribution based on parental altruism. However, we argue that there exists another equivalence mechanism which also works with purely selfish individuals: Public debts capitalize into property values. Jurisdictions with larger net debts exhibit, ceteris paribus, lower property prices. Debt capitalization in property values is the more pronounced the less elastic land supply is and the more mobile the other factors of production are. Therefore, capitalization is more relevant for local than for national debts, i.e. it is more pronounced in a federal than in a centralized state. Thus, federalism also becomes a protector of future generations.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Review of Law & Economics.

Volume (Year): 6 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 395-420

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:6:y:2010:i:3:n:5

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Cited by:
  1. David Stadelmann & Reiner Eichenberger, 2014. "Public debts capitalize into property prices: empirical evidence for a new perspective on debt incidence," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 498-529, June.
  2. Dashle Kelley, 2014. "The political economy of unfunded public pension liabilities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(1), pages 21-38, January.


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