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Why So Much Centralization? A Model of Primitive Centripetal Accumulation

  • Jean-Paul Faguet

With strong conceptual arguments in its favor, decentralization is a popular and growing policy trend across the world. And yet dozens of empirical studies have failed to find convincing evidence that past reforms have worked. This begs two questions: 1)Why does decentralization produce indifferent results? and 2) Why is there so much centralization in the first place? The paper develops a simple model of a legislature in which municipal representatives bargain with central government agents over the allocation of public resources. By locating central government in a particular geographic space ¿ the ¿capital¿ ¿ and invoking self-interest on the part of its residents, I can answer both questions. I introduce the concept of residual power, which underpins the model and determines the flow of resources to districts. There is so much centralization because residual power is located in the capital, whose residents directly benefit from weak local governments.

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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers with number 43.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stidep:43
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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  1. Alesina, Alberto F & Roubini, Nouriel, 1990. "Political Cycles in OECD Economies," CEPR Discussion Papers 470, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
  3. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee, 1998. "Expenditure Decentralization and the Delivery of Public Services in Developing Countries," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 90, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  4. Richard A. Posner, 1974. "Theories of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 5(2), pages 335-358, Autumn.
  5. Becker, Gary S, 1983. "A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400, August.
  6. Antonio Estache, 1994. "World Development Report: Infrastructure for Development," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/44144, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  7. Besley, Timothy J. & Coate, Stephen, 2000. "Centralized versus Decentralized Provision of Local Public Goods: a Political Economy Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 2495, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1987. "The economics of the local public sector," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 11, pages 571-645 Elsevier.
  9. John Joseph Wallis & Wallace E. Oates, 1988. "Decentralization in the Public Sector: An Empirical Study of State and Local Government," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Federalism: Quantitative Studies, pages 5-32 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Pommerehne, Werner W & Schneider, Friedrich, 1978. "Fiscal Illusion, Political Institutions, and Local Public Spending," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(3), pages 381-408.
  11. Panizza, Ugo, 1999. "On the determinants of fiscal centralization: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 97-139, October.
  12. Roubini, Nouriel & Alesina, Alberto, 1992. "Political Cycles in OECD Economies," Scholarly Articles 4553025, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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