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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 a new dataset of Swiss cantons from 1890 to 2000, we estimate the causal effect of direct democracy on government spending. Our analysis is novel in two ways: first, we use fixed effects to control for unobserved heterogeneity; second, we combine a new instrument with fixed effects to address the potential endogeneity of institutional reform. We find that direct democracy has a constraining, but modest effect on spending. Our estimates suggest that a mandatory budget referendum reduces canton expenditures by 9 percent. A decline in the signature requirement for the voter initiative by one percent reduces spending by 2.2 percent. We find no evidence that direct democracy at the canton level results in higher local spending or a more decentralized government.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2693.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2693

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Cited by:
  1. 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," CESifo Working Paper Series 4195, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. 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.
  3. Heinemann, Friedrich & Osterloh, Steffen & Kalb, Alexander, 2014. "Sovereign risk premia: The link between fiscal rules and stability culture," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 110-127.
  4. Mario Jametti, 2014. "Weathering the Global Financial Crisis - Is Direct Democracy of any Help?," IdEP Economic Papers 1405, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
  5. Nicole Aregger & Martin Brown & Enzo Rossi, 2013. "Transaction Taxes, Capital Gains Taxes and House Prices," Working Papers 2013-02, Swiss National Bank.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Sajjad Faraji Dizaji & Mohammad Reza Farzanegan, 2014. "Political Institutions and Government Spending Behavior in Iran," CESifo Working Paper Series 4620, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. 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.
  13. Funk, Patricia & Gathmann, Christina, 2013. "Voter preferences, direct democracy and government spending," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 300-319.
  14. Mario Jametti & Marcelin Joanis, 2014. "Elections and de facto Expenditure Decentralization in Canada," CESifo Working Paper Series 4791, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. 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.
  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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