IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Has Leviathan Been Bound? A Theory of Imperfectly Constrained Government with Evidence from the States


  • Bryan Caplan

    () (Department of Economics and Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University)


This paper develops a formal theory that combines power-maximizing “Leviathan” political parties with well-defined imperfections in the political process. The model implies that both parties tend to make government larger as their likelihood of electoral victory increases. Empirical tests on state-level data confirm this prediction. Racing the Leviathan hypothesis against alternative theories of party motivation indicates that both the Leviathan and the “contrasting ideologies” views have some degree of validity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryan Caplan, 2001. "Has Leviathan Been Bound? A Theory of Imperfectly Constrained Government with Evidence from the States," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 825-847, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:67:4:y:2001:p:825-847

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Amy Farmer & Jill Tiefenthaler, 1997. "An Economic Analysis of Domestic Violence," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(3), pages 337-358.
    2. Griliches, Zvi & Hausman, Jerry A., 1986. "Errors in variables in panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 93-118, February.
    3. Tauchen, Helen V & Witte, Ann Dryden & Long, Sharon K, 1991. "Domestic Violence: A Nonrandom Affair," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(2), pages 491-511, May.
    4. Ornstein, Stanley I & Hanssens, Dominique M, 1985. " Alcohol Control Laws and the Consumption of Distilled Spirits and Beer," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 200-213, September.
    5. Helen V. Tauchen & Ann Dryden Witte & Sharon K. Long, 1985. "Domestic Violence: A Non-random Affair," NBER Working Papers 1665, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Sara Markowitz & Michael Grossman, 1998. "The Effects of Alcohol Regulation on Physical Child Abuse," NBER Working Papers 6629, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Sara Markowitz & Michael Grossman, 1998. "Alcohol Regulation And Domestic Violence Towards Children," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 16(3), pages 309-320, July.
    8. Kenkel, Donald S, 1993. "Drinking, Driving, and Deterrence: The Effectiveness and Social Costs of Alternative Policies," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 877-913, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Raúl A. Ponce Rodríguez & Ikuho Kochi & Luis E. Gutiérrez Casas, 2015. "The structure of political power and redistribution in economies with multiple governments," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 30(2), pages 269-303.
    2. Pal, Rupayan & Sharma, Ajay, 2013. "Endogenizing governments' objectives in tax competition," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 570-578.
    3. Marco Alderighi & Christophe Feder, 2014. "Political competition, power allocation and welfare in unitary and federal systems," Working Paper series 23_14, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    4. J. Stephen Ferris, 2010. "Fiscal Policy from a Public Choice Perspective," Carleton Economic Papers 10-10, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
    5. Aidan R. Vining, 2003. "Internal Market Failure: A Framework for Diagnosing Firm Inefficiency," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 431-457, March.
    6. Ashworth, John & Geys, Benny & Heyndels, Bruno, 2006. "Determinants of tax innovation: The case of environmental taxes in Flemish municipalities," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 223-247, March.
    7. Johnson, Noel D & Matthew, Mitchell & Yamarik, Steven, 2012. "Pick Your Poison: Do Politicians Regulate When They Can’t Spend?," MPRA Paper 37430, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. repec:hal:cesptp:hal-00800688 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Reed, W. Robert, 2006. "Democrats, republicans, and taxes: Evidence that political parties matter," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 725-750, May.
    10. Niklas Potrafke, 2017. "Government Ideology and Economic Policy-Making in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 6444, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Leigh, Andrew, 2008. "Estimating the impact of gubernatorial partisanship on policy settings and economic outcomes: A regression discontinuity approach," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 256-268, March.
    12. Albert Solé-Ollé, 2006. "The effects of party competition on budget outcomes: Empirical evidence from local governments in Spain," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 145-176, January.
    13. Benoît Le Maux, 2009. "Governmental behavior in representative democracy: a synthesis of the theoretical literature," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 141(3), pages 447-465, December.
    14. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-17-00359 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Eric Dubois & Matthieu Leprince & Sonia Paty, 2007. "The Effects of Politics on Local Tax Setting: Evidence from France," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 44(8), pages 1603-1618, July.
    16. Propheter Geoffrey, 2015. "Political Institutions and State Sales Tax Base Erosion," Statistics, Politics and Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1-2), pages 1-17, December.
    17. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "When is two better than one? How federalism mitigates and intensifies imperfect political competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 99-119, April.
    18. Sole Olle, Albert, 2003. "Electoral accountability and tax mimicking: the effects of electoral margins, coalition government, and ideology," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 685-713, November.
    19. Leandro M. de Magalhães, 2011. "Political Parties and the Tax Level in the American States: A Regression Discontinuity Design," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 11/622, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:67:4:y:2001:p:825-847. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Laura Razzolini). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.