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Leviathan or Median-Voter: Who Runs City Hall?


  • Rexford E. Santerre

    (Bentley College)


This study examines the effect of interjurisdictional competition and city age, as a proxy for special interest group activities, on the size of city government. Unlike previous studies on the Leviathan theory, the empirical analysis is well grounded in a median-voter model. The empirical results find mixed support for a Leviathan in city hall. On the one hand, city expenditures are found to be higher rather than lower with more intense competition. On the other hand, longer periods of democratic stability, measured by uninterrupted years of incorporation as a city, are associated with increased public expenditures, as a Leviathan-type model predicts.

Suggested Citation

  • Rexford E. Santerre, 1991. "Leviathan or Median-Voter: Who Runs City Hall?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 5-14, Jan-Mar.
  • Handle: RePEc:eej:eeconj:v:17:y:1991:i:1:p:5-14

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Randall W. Eberts & Timothy J. Gronberg, 1988. "Can competition among local governments constrain government spending?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Q I, pages 2-9.
    2. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Goodman, Robert P, 1973. "Private Demands for Public Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 280-296, June.
    3. Nelson, Michael A, 1987. "Searching for Leviathan: Comment and Extension," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 198-204, March.
    4. Borcherding, Thomas E & Deacon, Robert T, 1972. "The Demand for the Services of Non-Federal Governments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 891-901, December.
    5. Oates, Wallace E, 1985. "Searching for Leviathan: An Empirical Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 748-757, September.
    6. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1979. "The elusive median voter," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 143-170, October.
    7. Zax, Jeffrey S, 1989. "Is There a Leviathan in Your Neighborhood?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 560-567, June.
    8. Dennis Mueller & Peter Murrell, 1986. "Interest groups and the size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 125-145, January.
    9. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    10. Forbes, Kevin F & Zampelli, Ernest M, 1989. "Is Leviathan a Mythical Beast?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 568-577, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fox, William F. & Gurley, Tami, 2006. "Will consolidation improve sub-national governments ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3913, The World Bank.
    2. Laurie Bates & Rexford Santerre, 2006. "Leviathan in the Crosshairs," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 127(1), pages 133-145, April.
    3. Patonov Nikolay Andonov, 2013. "Searching for A Restraint on the European Leviathan," Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, De Gruyter Open, vol. 60(2), pages 1-16, December.

    More about this item


    Government; Interest Group; Voter;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption


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