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Federal fiscal constitutions part 1: risk sharing and moral hazard

  • Torsten Persson
  • Guido Tabellini

Inspired by the current European developments, we study equilibrium fiscal policy under alternative constitutional arrangements in a “federation” of countries. There are two levels of government: local and federal. Local policy redistributes across individuals and affects the probability of aggregate shocks, while federal policy shares international risk. Policies are chosen under majority rule. There is a moral hazard problem: federal risk-sharing can induce the local governments to enact policies that increase local risk. We investigate this incentive problem under alternative fiscal constitutions. In particular, we contrast a vertically ordered system like the EC with a horizontally ordered federal system like the US. These alternative arrangements are not neutral, in the sense that they create different incentives for policymakers and voters, and give rise to different political equilibria. A general conclusion is that, centralization of functions and power can be welfare improving under appropriate institutions. However, this conclusion only applies to the moral hazard problem and a federation where the countries are not too dissimilar.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 72.

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Date of creation: 1992
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:72
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  1. Alesina, Alberto F & Tabellini, Guido, 1988. "Voting on the Budget Deficit," CEPR Discussion Papers 269, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Sachs, Jeffrey & Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Fiscal Federalism and Optimum Currency Areas: Evidence for Europe from the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 632, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Bureau, Dominique & Champsaur, Paul, 1992. "Fiscal Federalism and European Economic Unification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 88-92, May.
  4. Jewitt, Ian, 1988. "Justifying the First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1177-90, September.
  5. Wildasin, David E, 1990. "Budgetary Pressures in the EEC: A Fiscal Federalism Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 69-74, May.
  6. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  7. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-30, March.
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