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The assignment of functions to decentralized government: from theory to practice


  • B Dafflon


The question of why key academic economic arguments for the assignment of functions to decentralized government have not informed the political debate in Switzerland is examined in this paper. In the first section the most relevant theoretical factors of optimal government organization for service delivery are reviewed. A catalogue of criteria that have been debated in the Swiss context at both federal - cantonal and cantonal - local levels are covered in the second section. The main point is that the discussion is focused on rather different criteria from those noted in orthodox economic theory. The analysis of the causes and discrepancies between theory and practice permits a more general conclusion, addressed to fiscal federalism. The conclusion is that there is no general answer to how functions should be assigned to a particular level of government, as the solution depends upon the relevant value-judgments of the polity as well as the resources-use required to provide given services. The outcome is a set of proposals on how better procedures for the assignment of functions might be developed.

Suggested Citation

  • B Dafflon, 1992. "The assignment of functions to decentralized government: from theory to practice," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 10(3), pages 283-298, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirc:v:10:y:1992:i:3:p:283-298

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    Cited by:

    1. Bernard Dafflon, 2008. "Conceptual Problems in the Assigment of Functions in SEE: The Case of Albania," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0827, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    2. Carlos Monasterio Escudero, 2010. "Federalismo fiscal y sistema foral. ¿Un concierto desafinado?," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 192(1), pages 59-103, March.
    3. Horváth, M. Tamás & Péteri, Gábor & Vécsei, Pál, 2014. "A helyi forrásszabályozási rendszer magyarországi példája, 1990-2012
      [The case of regulation in local government finances in Hungary, 1990-2012]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(2), pages 121-147.
    4. Luc Eyraud & Marialuz Moreno Badia, 2013. "Too Small to Fail? Subnational Spending Pressures in Europe," IMF Working Papers 13/46, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Younger, Stephen D., 2015. "Synopsis, Is there fiscal space for CAADP in Ghana?:," GSSP working papers 8, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Guy Gilbert, 1996. "Le fédéralisme financier, perspectives de microéconomie spatiale," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 47(2), pages 311-363.
    7. Dafflon, Bernard & Toth, Krisztina, 2005. "Fiscal federalism in Switzerland : relevant issues for transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3655, The World Bank.
    8. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & François Vaillancourt, 2011. "An Overview of the Main Obstacles to Decentralization," Chapters,in: Decentralization in Developing Countries, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Franziska Kruse & Felix Rösel, 2015. "Die Eingliederungshilfe für behinderte Menschen - Wie lassen sich regionale Ausgabenunterschiede erklären?," ifo Dresden berichtet, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 22(03), pages 33-37, June.

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