Federal Mandates by Popular Demand
This paper proposes a new framework for studying federal mandates regarding public policies in areas such as environmental quality, public health, highway safety, and the provision of local public goods. Voters have single-peaked preferences along a single policy dimension. There are two levels of government, federal and local. The federal level can constrain local policy by mandating a minimum (or maximum) policy. Localities are free to adopt any policy satisfying the constraint imposed by the federal mandate. We show that voters choose federal mandates that are too strict, which leads to excessively severe mandates. We show that similar results can obtain when federal provision of the public-provided good is more efficient than local provision.
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