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The Effect of Direct Democracy on Income Redistribution: Evidence for Switzerland

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  • Lars P. Feld
  • Justina A.V. Fischer
  • Gebhard Kirchgassner

Abstract

There is an intensive dispute in political economics about the impact of institutions on income redistribution. While the main focus is on comparison between different forms of representative democracy, the influence of direct democracy on redistribution has attracted much less attention. According to theoretical arguments and previous empirical results, government policies of income redistribution are expected to be more in line with median voter preferences in direct than in representative democracies. In this paper, we find that institutions of direct democracy are associated with lower public spending and revenue, particularly lower welfare spending and broad-based income and property (wealth) tax revenue. Moreover, we estimate a model which explains the determinants of redistribution using panel data provided by the Swiss Federal Tax Office from 1981 to 1997 and a cross section of (representative) individual data from 1992. While our results indicate that less public funds are used to redistribute income and actual redistribution is lower, inequality is not reduced to a lesser extent in direct than in representative democracies for a given initial income distribution. This finding might well indicate the presence of efficiency gains in redistribution policies.

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  • Lars P. Feld & Justina A.V. Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 2006. "The Effect of Direct Democracy on Income Redistribution: Evidence for Switzerland," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-24, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  • Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2006-24
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    Cited by:

    1. Niklas Potrafke, 2013. "Evidence on the political principal-agent problem from voting on public finance for concert halls," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 215-238, September.
    2. Fischer, Justina AV & Schneider, Friedrich, 2007. "Protestantism and Government Spending: a Negative Relationship? An Empirical Application to Swiss Cantons," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 685, Stockholm School of Economics.
    3. Fischer, Justina, 2011. "Living under the ‘right’ government: does political ideology matter to trust in political institutions? An analysis for OECD countries," MPRA Paper 33344, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Krumm, Raimund & Volkert, Jürgen, 2015. "Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der politischen Realisierbarkeit intra- und intergenerativer Gerechtigkeit," UFZ Discussion Papers 11/2015, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    5. Winkelmann, Rainer, 2012. "Conspicuous consumption and satisfaction," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 183-191.
    6. Castanheira, Micael & Nicodème, Gaëtan & Profeta, Paola, 2011. "On the political economics of tax reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8507, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Pfarr, Christian & Schmid, Andreas & Mørkbak, Morten Raun, 2015. "Latent characteristics and preferences for income redistribution," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113001, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Lars Feld & Jan Schnellenbach, 2014. "Political institutions and income (re-)distribution: evidence from developed economies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 435-455, June.
    9. Fischer, Justina A.V., 2007. "The Impact of Direct Democracy on Public Education: Evidence for Swiss Students in Reading, Mathematics and Natural Science," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 688, Stockholm School of Economics.
    10. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2008. "Direct democracy and life satisfaction revisited: new evidence for Switzerland," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 227-255, June.
    11. Economou, Emmanouel/Marios/Lazaros & Kyriazis, Nicholas & Metaxas, Theodore, 2015. "The Themistocles Naval Decree of 483/2 BCE and the Greek Referendum of 2015: A comparative analysis of choice set under direct democracy procedures," MPRA Paper 76421, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. repec:spr:sjecst:v:153:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_bf03399508 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Rosella Levaggi & Francesco Menoncin, 2014. "Health care expenditure decisions in the presence of devolution and equalisation grants," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 355-368, December.
    14. Lars P. Feld & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2012. "Die Politische Ökonomik der Besteuerung," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 13(1-2), pages 116-136, February.
    15. Arvanitidis Paschalis A. & Kyriazis Nicholas C., 2013. "Democracy and Public Choice in Classical Athens," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(2), pages 213-248, August.
    16. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0453-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Hans-Günter Krüsselberg, 2005. "Milton Friedman und der Wissenschaftliche Beirat für Familienfragen Elternkompetenz und Anteilscheine am Schulbudget – Gedanken über Reformpotenziale," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200506, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    18. repec:spr:homoec:v:34:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s41412-017-0039-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Justina AV Fischer, 2011. "Living under the ‘right’ government: does political ideology matter to trust in political institutions?," CEIS Research Paper 212, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 14 Oct 2011.
    20. repec:kap:pubcho:v:174:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0486-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth, 2007. "Within and Between Gender Disparities in Income and Education Benefits from Democracy," IZA Discussion Papers 3221, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2007. "Is It Culture or Democracy? The Impact of Democracy and Culture on Happiness," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 82(3), pages 505-526, July.
    23. Lars Feld, 2005. "The European constitution project from the perspective of constitutional political economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 417-448, March.
    24. Pfarr, Christian & Schmid, Andreas & Mørkbak, Morten Raun, 2014. "Identifying latent interest-groups: An analysis of heterogeneous preferences for income-redistribution," MPRA Paper 58823, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    25. Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (ed.), 2014. "Mehr Vertrauen in Marktprozesse. Jahresgutachten 2014/15," Annual Economic Reports / Jahresgutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, volume 127, number 201415.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income Redistribution; Direct Democracy; Referenda; Initiatives.;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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