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Communication in Federal Politics: Universalism, Policy Uniformity, and the Optimal Allocation of Fiscal Authority

  • Kessler, Anke

The paper presents a positive model of communication in federal legislatures to study the incentives of members to engage in a meaningful exchange of information, and how this shapes policy outcomes. Depending on the type of policy under consideration, communication between delegates generally suffers from a bias that make truthful revelation difficult and sometimes impossible. This generates inefficient policy choices at the federal level that are often are endogenously characterized by overspending, universalism and uniformity. Building on these findings, I develop a simple theory of fiscal (de-)centralization, which revisits Oates' decentralization theorem in a world of incomplete information and strategic communication. Empirical results from a cross section of U.S. municipalities strongly support the predicted pattern of spending.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7910.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7910
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  1. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Scholarly Articles 4554125, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2004. "Constitutional Rules and Fiscal Policy Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 25-45, March.
  3. Alessro Lizzeri & Nicola Persico, . "The Provision of Public Goods Under Alternative Electoral Incentives," Penn CARESS Working Papers b96440ba0bfa06ca550ac40aa, Penn Economics Department.
  4. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
  5. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
  6. Gilligan, Thomas W. & Matsusaka, John G., 2001. "Fiscal Policy, Legislature Size, and Political Parties: Evidence from State and Local Governments in the First Half of the 20th Century," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 57-82, March.
  7. Lockwood, Ben, 1998. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 2046, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Wouter Dessein, 2000. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1747, Econometric Society.
  9. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2009. "Government Form and Public Spending: Theory and Evidence from U.S. Municipalities," NBER Working Papers 14857, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Epstein, David, 1998. "Partisan and Bipartisan Signaling in Congress," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 183-204, October.
  11. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Roberto Perotti & Massimo Rostagno, 2002. "Electoral Systems And Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(2), pages 609-657, May.
  12. Bradbury, John Charles & Crain, W. Mark, 2001. "Legislative organization and government spending: cross-country evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 309-325, December.
  13. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Does centralization increase the size of government?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 765-773, April.
  14. Anke S. Kessler & Christoph Luelfesmann & Gordon M. Myers, 2007. "Federations, Constitutions, and Political Bargaining," Discussion Papers dp07-19, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  15. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
  16. Bård Harstad, 2007. "Harmonization and Side Payments in Political Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 871-889, June.
  17. Seabright, Paul, 1994. "Accountability and Decentralization in Government: An Incomplete Contracts Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 889, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  19. Faguet, Jean-Paul, 2004. "Does decentralization increase government responsiveness to local needs?: Evidence from Bolivia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 867-893, March.
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