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Decentralization and Fiscal Discipline in Sub-national Governments: Evidence from the Swiss Federal System

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  • Markus Freitag
  • Adrian Vatter

Abstract

This article analyses the relationship between decentralization and the extent of fiscal discipline in the Swiss cantons between 1984 and 2000. From a theoretical point of view, decentralization and federalism can be associated with both an expansive and a dampening effect on government debt. On the one hand, decentralized structures have been argued to lead to a reduction of debt due to inherent competition between the member states and the multitude of veto positions which restrict public intervention. On the other hand, decentralization has been claimed to contribute to an increase of public debt as it involves expensive functional and organizational duplications as well as cost-intensive, often debt-financed, compromise solutions between a large number of actors that operate in an uncoordinated and contradictory way. Our empirical results show that in periods of prosperous economic development, the architecture of state structure has no impact on debt. However, the degree of decentralization influences debt in economically poor times: In phases of economic recession, administratively decentralized cantons implement a more economical budgetary policy than centralized Swiss member states. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Freitag & Adrian Vatter, 2008. "Decentralization and Fiscal Discipline in Sub-national Governments: Evidence from the Swiss Federal System," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 272-294, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:publus:v:38:y:2008:i:2:p:272-294
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/publius/pjm038
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    Cited by:

    1. Thushyanthan Baskaran, 2012. "Tax Decentralization and Public Deficits in OECD Countries," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(4), pages 688-707, October.
    2. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Violeta Vulovic, 2017. "How well do subnational borrowing regulations work?," Chapters,in: Central and Local Government Relations in Asia, chapter 5, pages 161-220 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. repec:kap:iaecre:v:17:y:2011:i:2:p:134-156 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Aldasoro, Iñaki & Seiferling, Mike, 2014. "Vertical fiscal imbalances and the accumulation of government debt," SAFE Working Paper Series 61, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    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. David Bartolini & Agnese Sacchi & Simone Salotti & Raffaella Santolini, 2015. "Fiscal decentralisation in times of financial crises," Working Papers. Collection A: Public economics, governance and decentralization 1506, Universidade de Vigo, GEN - Governance and Economics research Network.
    7. Schaltegger, Christoph A. & Feld, Lars P., 2009. "Are fiscal adjustments less successful in decentralized governments?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 115-123, March.
    8. Johann Bröthaler & Michael Getzner, 2011. "Fiscal Autonomy and Total Government Expenditure: An Austrian Case-study," International Advances in Economic Research, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 17(2), pages 134-156, May.

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