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Accountability and Decentralization in Government: An Incomplete Contracts Model

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  • Seabright, Paul

Abstract

This paper approaches the question of the appropriate level of decentralization of power in government as a problem in the allocation of control rights under incomplete contracts. This approach is preferable to that of the literature following the Tiebout model of local public goods, which analyses the merits of the differentiation of policy by locality but has nothing to say about the decentralization of power as such. The model of this paper compares allocations of power to regional and central government as alternative means of motivating governments to act in the interests of citizens. Centralization allows benefits from policy coordination but has costs in terms of diminished accountability, which can be precisely defined as the reduced probability that the welfare of a given region can determine the re-election of the government. The model is extended to allow for conflicts of interest within regions, and for the possibility that governments may act as Leviathans appropriating resources for their own use. Conditions are derived under which a given region will be better off under central or regional government.

Suggested Citation

  • Seabright, Paul, 1994. "Accountability and Decentralization in Government: An Incomplete Contracts Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 889, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:889
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    2. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 25-45, March.
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    4. Tirole, Jean, 1994. "The Internal Organization of Government," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-29, January.
    5. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 1992. "An Incomplete Contracts Approach to Financial Contracting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(3), pages 473-494.
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    8. Geoffrey Brennan & Alan Hamlin, 1994. "A Revisionist View of the Separation of Powers," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 6(3), pages 345-368, July.
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    10. Bewley, Truman F, 1981. "A Critique of Tiebout's Theory of Local Public Expenditures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(3), pages 713-740, May.
    11. Hamlin, Alan P, 1991. "Decentralization, Competition and the Efficiency of Federalism," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 67(198), pages 193-204, September.
    12. DREZE , Jacques H., 1993. "Regions of Europe : A Feasible Status, to be discussed," CORE Discussion Papers 1993037, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    13. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Accountability; Decentralization; Incomplete Contracts; Tiebout Model;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General

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