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Harmonization and Side Payments in Political Cooperation


  • Bård Harstad


For two districts or countries that try to internalize externalities, I analyze a bargaining game under private information. I derive conditions for when it is efficient with uniform policies across regions—with and without side payments— and when it is efficient to prohibit side payments in the negotiations. While policy differentiation and side payments allow the policy to better reflect local conditions, they create conflicts between the regions and, thus, delay. The results also describe when political centralization outperforms decentralized cooperation, and they provide a theoretical foundation for the controversial "uniformity assumption" traditionally used by the fiscal federalism literature. (JEL C78, D72, D82, H77)

Suggested Citation

  • Bård Harstad, 2007. "Harmonization and Side Payments in Political Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 871-889, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:3:p:871-889 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.3.871

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
    2. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
    3. Inderst, Roman, 2000. "Multi-issue Bargaining with Endogenous Agenda," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 64-82, January.
    4. Kreps, David M & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Sequential Equilibria," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 863-894, July.
    5. Ben Lockwood, 2002. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 313-337.
    6. Hindriks, Jean & Lockwood, Ben, 2009. "Decentralization and electoral accountability: Incentives, separation and voter welfare," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 385-397, September.
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    8. Alberto Alesina & Ignazio Angeloni & Federico Etro, 2005. "International Unions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 602-615, June.
    9. Lockwood, Ben, 2005. "Fiscal Decentralization: A Political Economy Perspective," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 721, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    10. Anat R. Admati & Motty Perry, 1987. "Strategic Delay in Bargaining," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 345-364.
    11. Alesina, Alberto & Drazen, Allan, 1991. "Why Are Stabilizations Delayed?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1170-1188, December.
    12. Loeper, Antoine, 2011. "Coordination in heterogeneous federal systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 900-912, August.
    13. Bolton, Patrick & Farrell, Joseph, 1990. "Decentralization, Duplication, and Delay," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 803-826, August.
    14. Peter C. Cramton, 1992. "Strategic Delay in Bargaining with Two-Sided Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(1), pages 205-225.
    15. Matthias Wrede, 2006. "Uniformity Requirement and Political Accountability," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 89(2), pages 95-113, November.
    16. Seabright, Paul, 1996. "Accountability and decentralisation in government: An incomplete contracts model," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 61-89, January.
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    18. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
    19. Koleman S. Strumpf & Felix Oberholzer-Gee, 2002. "Endogenous Policy Decentralization: Testing the Central Tenet of Economic Federalism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-36, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism


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