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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

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  • 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

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1123.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
Date of revision: Oct 2008
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1123

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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Keywords: Direct Democracy; Fiscal Policy; Switzerland;

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References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Lars P. Feld & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2009. "Political Stability and Fiscal Policy - Time Series Evidence for the Swiss Federal Level since 1849," CESifo Working Paper Series 2691, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. 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.
  7. Mario Jametti, 2014. "Weathering the Global Financial Crisis - Is Direct Democracy of any Help?," IdEP Economic Papers 1405, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Andrew Beath & Fotini Christia & Ruben Enikolopov, 2013. "Direct Democracy and Resource Allocation: Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan," Working Papers w0192, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  13. 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.
  14. Funk, Patricia & Gathmann, Christina, 2013. "Voter preferences, direct democracy and government spending," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 300-319.
  15. Nicole Aregger & Martin Brown & Enzo Rossi, 2013. "Transaction Taxes, Capital Gains Taxes and House Prices," Working Papers 2013-02, Swiss National Bank.
  16. Mario Jametti & Marcelin Joanis, 2014. "Elections and de facto Expenditure Decentralization in Canada," IdEP Economic Papers 1404, USI Università della Svizzera italiana.

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