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

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  • Kessler, Anke

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Kessler, Anke, 2010. "Communication in Federal Politics: Universalism, Policy Uniformity, and the Optimal Allocation of Fiscal Authority," CEPR Discussion Papers 7910, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7910
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Does centralization increase the size of government?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 765-773, April.
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    7. Nicola Persico & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2001. "The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 225-239, March.
    8. Wouter Dessein, 2002. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 811-838.
    9. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
    10. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2004. "Constitutional Rules and Fiscal Policy Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 25-45, March.
    11. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Roberto Perotti & Massimo Rostagno, 2002. "Electoral Systems and Public Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 609-657.
    12. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2011. "Government Form and Public Spending: Theory and Evidence from US Municipalities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 82-112, August.
    13. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
    14. 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.
    15. Bård Harstad, 2007. "Harmonization and Side Payments in Political Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 871-889, June.
    16. 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.
    17. repec:cup:apsrev:v:95:y:2001:i:02:p:435-452_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Anke S. Kessler & Christoph Luelfesmann & Gordon M. Myers, 2007. "Federations, Constitutions, and Political Bargaining," Discussion Papers dp07-19, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    19. 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(1), pages 57-82, March.
    20. 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.
    21. Seabright, Paul, 1996. "Accountability and decentralisation in government: An incomplete contracts model," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 61-89, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kimiko Terai & Amihai Glazer, 2014. "Budgets under Delegation," Keio-IES Discussion Paper Series 2014-007, Institute for Economics Studies, Keio University.
    2. Martín Gonzalez-Eiras & Dirk Niepelt, 2016. "Fiscal Federalism, Taxation and Grants," Working Papers 16.05, Swiss National Bank, Study Center Gerzensee.
    3. Dirk Niepelt, 2018. "Dynamic Tax Externalities and the U.S. Fiscal Transformation in the 1930s," Diskussionsschriften dp1803, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    4. Luelfesmann, Christoph & Kessler, Anke & Myers, Gordon M., 2015. "The architecture of federations: Constitutions, bargaining, and moral hazard," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 18-29.
    5. De Borger, Bruno & Proost, Stef, 2016. "Can we leave road pricing to the regions? -The role of institutional constraints," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 208-222.
    6. Axel Dreher & Kai Gehring & Christos Kotsogiannis & Silvia Marchesi, 2013. "Information transmission within federal fiscal architectures: Theory and evidence," Working Papers 253, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2013.
    7. Brülhart, Marius & Bucovetsky, Sam & Schmidheiny, Kurt, 2015. "Taxes in Cities," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Communication; Debate; Fiscal Federalism; Legislative Behavior; Universalism;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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