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Relative Capture of Local and Central Governments: An Essay in the Political Economy of Decentralization

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  • Pranab Bardhan
  • Dilip Mookherjee

Abstract

A common presumption is that decentralization is prone to a potential pitfall owing to the greater vulnerability of local governments to capture by local elites. We investigate the determinants of relative capture of local and national governments theoretically, in the context of an extended version of the Baron-Grossman-Helpman model of electoral competition with lobbying by special interest groups. A number of factors do provide support to the traditional presumption, such as reduced cohesiveness of interest groups, higher levels of voter awareness, and greater electoral competition at the national level. A number of other factors may, however, create an opposite tendency for lower capture at the local level. These include less electoral uncertainty at the national level, and a higher value of campaign funds in national elections owing to their fungibility across different districts. Relative capture also depends on heterogeneity across districts with respect to levels of local inequality and poverty: accordingly decentralization will tend to increase capture in high inequality districts and lower it in low inequality districts. Power-sharing between parties at the national level, due either to coalition governments or proportional representation, limits the extent of national capture. We conclude that empirical research is necessary to investigate the extent and determinants of relative capture.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Boston University, Institute for Economic Development in its series Boston University - Institute for Economic Development with number 97.

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Date of creation: 30 Nov 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fth:bosecd:97

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  1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political economics and macroeconomic policy," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 22, pages 1397-1482 Elsevier.
  2. Galasso, Emanuela & Ravallion, Martin, 2000. "Distributional outcomes of a decentralized welfare program," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2316, The World Bank.
  3. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 265-86, April.
  4. R. L. Hanson & J. T. Hartman, . "Do welfare magnets attract?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1028-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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