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Centralization and political accountability

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  • HINDRIKS, Jean
  • LOCKWOOD, Ben

Abstract

In this paper we abstract from the usual gains and costs of decentralization (e.g. preference matching, spillovers and economies of scale). Instead we compare the political accountability of decentralized governments relative to centralized ones when there is a risk of "bad" governance. We study both the selection and incentive effects of accountability. A key aspect of centralization is to make the politician answerable to multiple constituencies subject to a common budget constraint. Our main findings are that (a) when politicians differ in competence, decentralization unambiguously dominates; and (b) when politicians differ in honesty, decentralization and centralization have conflicting accountability effects (when one provides better discipline, the other gives better selection). The analysis then identifies the circumstances under which centralization may increase voter welfare. The more general lesson that we can draw is that different institutional forms give rise to different information to the voters on which electoral accountability can be based. Therefore they differ on how effective elections can be in disciplining and selecting policymakers.

Suggested Citation

  • HINDRIKS, Jean & LOCKWOOD, Ben, 2004. "Centralization and political accountability," CORE Discussion Papers 2004052, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2004052
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    File URL: https://uclouvain.be/en/research-institutes/immaq/core/dp-2004.html
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alberto Alesina & Enrico Spolaore, 1997. "On the Number and Size of Nations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1027-1056.
    2. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
    3. Paul Belleflamme & Jean Hindriks, 2005. "Yardstick competition and political agency problems," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 24(1), pages 155-169, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gonzales, Paula & Hindriks, Jean & Lockwood, Ben & Porteiro, Nicolas, 2006. "Political Budget Cycles and Fiscal Decentralization," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 742, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Paula Salinas Pena & Albert Sole-Olle, 2009. "Evaluating the effects of decentralization on educational outcomes in Spain," Working Papers in Economics 228, Universitat de Barcelona. Espai de Recerca en Economia.

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