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Does Direct Democracy Reduce the Size of Government? New Evidence from Historical Data, 1890–2000

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  • Patricia Funk
  • Christina Gathmann

Abstract

Using historical data for all Swiss cantons from 1890 to 2000, we estimate the causal effect of direct democracy on government spending. The main innovation in this paper is that we use fixed effects to control for unobserved heterogeneity and instrumental variables to address the potential endogeneity of institutions. We find that the budget referendum and lower costs to launch a voter initiative are effective tools in reducing canton level spending. However, we find no evidence that the budget referendum results in more decentralized government or a larger local government. Our instrumental variable estimates suggest that a mandatory budget referendum reduces the size of canton spending between 13 and 19 percent. A 1 percent lower signature requirement for the initiative reduces canton spending by up to 2 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 121 (2011)
Issue (Month): 557 (December)
Pages: 1252-1280

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:121:y:2011:i:557:p:1252-1280

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Beath, Andrew & Christia, Fotini & Enikolopov, Ruben, 2012. "Direct democracy and resource allocation : experimental evidence from Afghanistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6133, The World Bank.
  2. Mario Jametti & Marcelin Joanis, 2014. "Elections and de facto Expenditure Decentralization in Canada," CESifo Working Paper Series 4791, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Lars Feld & Christoph Schaltegger, 2010. "Political stability and fiscal policy: time series evidence for the Swiss federal level since 1849," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(3), pages 505-534, September.
  4. Phuong Nguyen-Hoang, 2012. "Fiscal effects of budget referendums: evidence from New York school districts," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(1), pages 77-95, January.
  5. Asatryan, Zareh & Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Heinemann, Friedrich, 2014. "The effect of direct democracy on the level and structure of local taxes," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-003, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  6. Mohammad Reza Farzanegan & Sajjad Faraji Dizaji, 2014. "Political Institutions and Government Spending Behavior in Iran," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201403, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  7. Asatryan, Zareh & Baskaran, Thushyanthan & Grigoriadis, Theocharis & Heinemann, Friedrich, 2013. "Direct democracy and local public finances under cooperative federalism," ZEW Discussion Papers 13-038, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  8. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2014. "Direct Democracy as a Disciplinary Device on Excessive Public Spending," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(1), pages 18-23, 04.
  9. Osterloh, Steffen & Heinemann, Friedrich & Kalb, Alexander, 2013. "Sovereign risk premia: The link between fiscal rules and stability culture," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 80043, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  10. Lars P. Feld & Alexander Kalb & Marc-Daniel Moessinger & Steffen Osterloh, 2013. "Sovereign bond market reactions to fiscal rules and no-bailout clauses – The Swiss experience," Working Papers 2013/27, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  11. Asatryan, Zareh, 2014. "The indirect effects of direct democracy: Local government size and non-budgetary voter initiatives," ZEW Discussion Papers 14-004, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  12. Funk, Patricia & Gathmann, Christina, 2013. "Voter preferences, direct democracy and government spending," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 300-319.
  13. Mario Jametti, 2014. "Tax Competition and Direct Democracy in Local Public Finance - Empirical Work on Switzerland," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(1), pages 12-17, 04.
  14. Nicole Aregger & Martin Brown & Enzo Rossi, 2013. "Transaction Taxes, Capital Gains Taxes and House Prices," Working Papers 2013-02, Swiss National Bank.
  15. Mario Jametti, 2014. "Weathering the Global Financial Crisis - Is Direct Democracy of any Help?," IdEP Economic Papers 1405, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
  16. Simon Luechinger & Christoph Schaltegger, 2013. "Fiscal rules, budget deficits and budget projections," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 20(5), pages 785-807, October.

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