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Free-riding or Internalizing? An Opportunistic View on Decentralization versus Centralization

  • Fabio Fiorillo
  • Agnese Sacchi

The aim of the paper is to analyze a model of local public good provision with positive interjurisdictional spillovers comparing decentralized and centralized system. As in the recent Second Generation Theory (SGT) of fiscal federalism (Seabright 1996; Lockwood 2002, 2006; Besley and Coate 2003; Weingast 2009), we also adopt a political economy approach, assuming different behaviours of political leaders (Leviathan and non-Leviathan). The main contribution of the paper is to consider two relevant aspects neglected by the political economy models: the size of local jurisdictions and the explicit definition of the rent-seeking behaviour. Moreover, modelling interregional externalities as a mechanism contributing to lowering the production cost of the public good in each region, a different trade-off - from the traditional and new theory of fiscal federalism - is proposed in order to compare decentralized versus centralized solution: the gains from internalizing externalities and the losses of freeriding advantages, which may differ with regional size and preferences for the public good. Given this general framework, the convenience of decentralization versus centralization mainly depends on the interaction among these factors: i) the free-riding gains exploiting positive externalities; ii) the gains of internalizing externalities; iii) the degree of preferences heterogeneity; iv) the implicit transfers (“cross subsidization”) across different regions. To summarize, from a positive viewpoint, decentralization should not be necessarily pursued only in the absence of externalities, but also with high spillovers. The key insight of this result is represented by different size of regions, which may determine an asymmetry among citizens’ responses concerning the best institutional setting.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3328.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3328
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  1. Lockwood, Ben, 1998. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 2046, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Gilbert, Guy & Picard, Pierre, 1996. "Incentives and optimal size of local jurisdictions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 19-41, January.
  3. Picard Pierre & Gilbert G, 1991. "Incentives and the optimal size of local territories," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9124, CEPREMAP.
  4. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  5. Weingast, Barry R., 2009. "Second generation fiscal federalism: The implications of fiscal incentives," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 279-293, May.
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  9. Jeremy Edwards & Michael Keen, 1994. "Tax competition and Leviathon," IFS Working Papers W94/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Robert Dur & Klaas Staal, 2007. "Local Public Good Provision, Municipal Consolidation, and National Transfers," CESifo Working Paper Series 2061, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Paolo Liberati, 2011. "“Which Tax” or “Which Tax for What?”: Tax Assignment in the Theory of Fiscal Federalism," Public Finance Review, , vol. 39(3), pages 365-392, May.
  12. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
  13. SALMON, Pierre, 1987. "Decentralization as an incentive scheme," Institut des Mathématiques Economiques – Document de travail de l’I.M.E. (1974-1993) 98, Institut des Mathématiques Economiques. LATEC, Laboratoire d'Analyse et des Techniques EConomiques, CNRS, Université de Bourgogne.
  14. Conley, John & Dix, Manfred, 1999. "Optimal and Equilibrium Membership in Clubs in the Presence of Spillovers," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 215-229, September.
  15. Breton, Albert, 1987. "Towards a theory of competitive federalism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 3(1-2), pages 263-329.
  16. Markusen, James R & Wigle, Randall M, 1989. "Nash Equilibrium Tariffs for the United States and Canada: The Roles of Country Size, Scale Economies, and Capital Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 368-86, April.
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