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Vertical competition in a unitary state


Author Info

  • SALMON, Pierre

    (LATEC - Université de Bourgogne)


The paper is concerned with what Albert Breton, in his theory of competitive federalism has called vertical competition, that is, competition between governments situated at different levels. However its setting is government systems that are unitary rather than federal and structured around three or four levels of government rather than the two often implicitly assumed. The paper tries to show that these characteristics may offer a partial solution to what is perhaps the major problem raised by vertical competition, that is, how winners in a vertical contest get protected against retaliation by the losers when the latter can change the rules (which are not constitutionally entrenched). In federations, the problem typically arises in the context of the relationship between the intermediate (provincial or state) level and the local one. In unitary systems, the relationship affected is the one between the central government and the intermediate level, whereas the competitive relationship between the intermediate and the local levels may find some protection as an effect of the central government playing the role of a monitor. As is illustrated by the decentralization experience in France, a lively vertical competition "at the bottom", between several subcentral tiers of government, may ensue.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by LATEC, Laboratoire d'Analyse et des Techniques EConomiques, CNRS UMR 5118, Université de Bourgogne in its series LATEC - Document de travail - Economie (1991-2003) with number 1999-11.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in Edited by GALEOTTI, Gianluigi, SALMON, Pierre, WINTROBE, Ronald (eds). Competition and Structure: The Political Economy of Collective Decisions: Essays in Honor of Albert Breton.Cambridge & New-York : Cambridge University Press, 2000. p. 239-256.
Handle: RePEc:lat:lateco:1999-11

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Keywords: decentralization; federalism; unitary state; French case; décentralisation; fédéralisme; Etat unitaire; cas français;

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Cited by:
  1. SALMON, Pierre, 2003. "Assigning powers in the European Union in the light of yardstick competition among governments," LEG - Document de travail - Economie 2003-03, LEG, Laboratoire d'Economie et de Gestion, CNRS, Université de Bourgogne.
  2. SALMON, Pierre, 2002. "Accounting for centralisation in the European Union : Niskanen, Monnet or Thatcher?," LATEC - Document de travail - Economie (1991-2003) 2002-05, LATEC, Laboratoire d'Analyse et des Techniques EConomiques, CNRS UMR 5118, Université de Bourgogne.
  3. Joan Costa-Font & Ana Rico, 2006. "Vertical Competition in the Spanish National Health System (NHS)," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 477-498, September.


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