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Independent and competing agencies: An effective way to control government


  • Reiner Eichenberger
  • Mark Schelker



Controlling government is a primary focus of the politico-economic literature. Recently, various political institutions have been analyzed from this perspective, most importantly balanced budget rules, fiscal federalism, and direct democracy. However, one type of institution has been neglected so far: elected competitors to the government. Such institutional competition between the government and an independent agency can be found at the Swiss local level, where finance Commissions compete with the government. In some parts of Switzerland, local finance commissions can ex ante criticize government projects and bring alternative policy proposals onto the political agenda, which are then voted on by the citizens. Thus, they become strong competitors to the government. We econometrically investigate this institutional setting by comparing the 26 Swiss cantons. We find the power of the local finance commission to have an economically relevant, statistically significant and robust negative effect on the tax burden and on public expenditures. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Suggested Citation

  • Reiner Eichenberger & Mark Schelker, 2007. "Independent and competing agencies: An effective way to control government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 79-98, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:130:y:2007:i:1:p:79-98
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-006-9073-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Reiner Eichenberger & David Stadelmann, 2009. "Consequences of Debt Capitalization: Property Ownership and Debt/Tax Choice," CREMA Working Paper Series 2009-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    2. Matthias Benz & Bruno S. Frey, "undated". "Corporate Governance: What can we Learn from Public Governance?," IEW - Working Papers 166, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. Lars Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Christoph Schaltegger, 2011. "Municipal debt in Switzerland: new empirical results," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 149(1), pages 49-64, October.
    4. Bruno Frey, 2011. "Tullock challenges: happiness, revolutions, and democracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(3), pages 269-281, September.
    5. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2010. "On the link between fiscal decentralization and public debt in OECD countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 351-378, December.
    6. Schelker, Mark, 2012. "Auditor expertise: Evidence from the public sector," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 432-435.
    7. Eichenberger Reiner & Stadelmann David, 2010. "How Federalism Protects Future Generations from Today's Public Debts," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(3), pages 395-420, December.
    8. Schelker, Mark & Eichenberger, Reiner, 2010. "Auditors and fiscal policy: Empirical evidence on a little big institution," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 357-380, December.
    9. Bruno Frey, 2008. "Outside and inside competition for international organizations—from analysis to innovations," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 335-350, December.
    10. Benno Torgler & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2005. "The Determinants of Political Discussion: How Important are Audit Courts and Local Autonomy?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-28, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    11. David Stadelmann & Reiner Eichenberger, 2008. "Debt Capitalization: A New Perspective on Ricardian Equivalence," CREMA Working Paper Series 2008-30, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    12. Mark Schelker, 2009. "Auditor Terms and Term Limits in the Public Sector: Evidence from the US States," CREMA Working Paper Series 2009-19, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    13. Blume, Lorenz & Voigt, Stefan, 2011. "Does organizational design of supreme audit institutions matter? A cross-country assessment," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 215-229, June.
    14. Mark Schelker, 2012. "The influence of auditor term length and term limits on US state general obligation bond ratings," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(1), pages 27-49, January.
    15. Lorenz Blume & Stefan Voigt, 2007. "Supreme Audit Institutions: Supremely Superfluous? A Cross Country Assessment," ICER Working Papers 03-2007, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.


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