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Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss


  • Lars P. Feld
  • John G. Matsusaka


New government spending must be approved by a referendum of citizens in many Swiss cantons. This decisionmaking procedure seems like a simple way to address citizen-legislator agency problems, but little systematic evidence is available concerning its effect on spending outcomes. We estimate spending regressions for Swiss cantons using panel data from 1986 to 1997. After controlling for demographics and other determinants of spending, mandatory referendums on new spending are found to reduce the size of the budget by 17% for the median canton.

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  • Lars P. Feld & John G. Matsusaka, 2000. "Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss," CESifo Working Paper Series 323, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_323

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Matsusaka, John G & McCarty, Nolan M, 2001. "Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 413-448, October.
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    11. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 1999. "Public Debt and Budgetary Procedures: Top Down or Bottom Up? Some Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-538.
    13. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1979. "Bureaucrats Versus Voters: On the Political Economy of Resource Allocation by Direct Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(4), pages 563-587.
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    Cited by:

    1. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, "undated". "Political Institutions and Policy Outcomes: What are the Stylized Facts?," Working Papers 189, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    2. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Lars P. Feld, 2001. "On Government Centralization and Budget Referendums: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 615, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Hans Pitlik & Christina Seyfried, 2016. "Tax Autonomy of the Swiss Cantons: A Model for Austria?," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 89(6), pages 423-435, June.
    4. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2004. "Sustainable Fiscal Policy in a Federal System: Switzerland as an Example," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200424, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    5. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2003. "The Role of Direct Democracy in the European Union," CESifo Working Paper Series 1083, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Anke Kessler, 2005. "Representative versus direct democracy: The role of informational asymmetries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 9-38, January.
    7. Gebhard Kirchgassner, 2002. "The effects of fiscal institutions on public finance: a survey of the empirical evidence," Chapters,in: Political Economy and Public Finance, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2002. "Auswirkungen der direkten Demokratie auf die öffentlichen Finanzen: Empirische Ergebnisse für die Schweiz," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 138(IV), pages 411-426, December.
    9. Signe Krogstrup & Sébastien Wälti, 2008. "Do fiscal rules cause budgetary outcomes?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 123-138, July.
    10. Berggren, Niclas & Karlson, Nils, 2003. "Constitutionalism, Division of Power and Transaction Costs," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(1-2), pages 99-124, October.
    11. Lars Feld, 2005. "The European constitution project from the perspective of constitutional political economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 417-448, March.
    12. Benno Torgler & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2005. "Trust and Fiscal Performance: A Panel Analysis with Swiss Data," Working Papers 2005.61, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    13. Blume Lorenz & Döring Thomas & Voigt Stefan, 2008. "Fiskalische Effekte der Kommunalverfassungsreformen der 1990er Jahre in Deutschland / Reforming Local Constitutions in Germany during the 1990s – Their Fiscal Effects," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(4), pages 317-344, August.
    14. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Development of Direct Democracy in Swiss Cantons between 1997 and 2003," MPRA Paper 16140, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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