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Accountability and decentralisation in government: An incomplete contracts model

  • Seabright, Paul

This paper approaches the question of the appropriate level of decentralization of power in government as a problem in the allocation of control rights under incomplete contracts. This approach is preferable to that of the literature following the Tiebout model of local public goods, which analyses the merits of the differentiation of policy by locality but has nothing to say about the decentralization of power as such. The model of this paper compares allocations of power to regional and central government as alternative means of motivating governments to act in the interests of citizens. Centralization allows benefits from policy coordination but has costs in terms of diminished accountability, which can be precisely defined as the reduced probability that the welfare of a given region can determine the re-election of the government. The model is extended to allow for conflicts of interest within regions, and for the possibility that governments may act as Leviathans appropriating resources for their own use. Conditions are derived under which a given region will be better off under central or regional government.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 40 (1996)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 61-89

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:40:y:1996:i:1:p:61-89
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/eer

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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Tirole, Jean, 1994. "The Internal Organization of Government," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-29, January.
  3. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Scholarly Articles 3450060, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Peltzman, Sam, 1992. "Voters as Fiscal Conservatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 327-61, May.
  5. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  6. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1992. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote Seeking, Tax Setting and Yardstick Competition," NBER Working Papers 4041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
  8. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
  9. Hamlin, Alan P, 1991. "Decentralization, Competition and the Efficiency of Federalism," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 67(198), pages 193-204, September.
  10. Geoffrey Brennan & Alan Hamlin, 1994. "A Revisionist View of the Separation of Powers," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 6(3), pages 345-368, July.
  11. DREZE , Jacques H., 1993. "Regions of Europe : A Feasible Status, to be discussed," CORE Discussion Papers 1993037, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1993. "Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices? Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits," NBER Working Papers 4575, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1992. "An Incomplete Contracts Approach to Financial Contracting," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 473-94, July.
  14. Bewley, Truman F, 1981. "A Critique of Tiebout's Theory of Local Public Expenditures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(3), pages 713-40, May.
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