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Words or deeds: what matters? On the role of symbolic action in political decentralization

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  • Alexander Libman

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Abstract

Although decentralization is often modeled as an outcome of bargaining over rents and policies, public statements, symbols and status have a great impact on this process as well. The paper studies the relative importance of “real” political actions versus changes of a symbolic nature in the bargaining over devolution, using the unique laboratory of personnel recentralization in the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2000 through 2007. While in the 1990s, most regional branches of federal ministries were under control of regional governors, and Vladimir Putin replaced the heads of agencies with new bureaucrats in the 2000s, thereby cutting their connections to the regions. This paper finds a robust influence of symbolic gestures made by regional governments in the earlier bargaining process on appointments, even controlling for the actual policies. It finds that regions sending stronger signal in favor of devolution in the 1990s were less likely to be punished by the federal government. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Libman, 2015. "Words or deeds: what matters? On the role of symbolic action in political decentralization," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 801-838, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:empeco:v:49:y:2015:i:3:p:801-838
    DOI: 10.1007/s00181-014-0893-8
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Decentralization; Signaling; Federalism; Russian regions; D78; H77; P26;

    JEL classification:

    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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