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On Government Centralization and Fiscal Referendums: A Theoretical Model and Evidence from Switzerland

  • Lars P. Feld


    (Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Philipps Universitaet Marburg)

  • Jan Schnellenbach


    (Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Philipps Universitaet MarburgTitle: On Government Centralization and Fiscal Referendums:)

  • Christoph A Schaltegger

    (Swiss Federal Tax Administration and CREMA)

We propose and test a positive model of fiscal federalism in which centralization is less likely to occur in jurisdictions with referendum decisions on policy centralization. Citizens choose centralization of public spending and revenue in order to internalize spillovers if individual preferences in two jurisdictions are sufficiently homogeneous. Under representative democracy, centralization is inefficiently high because representatives can extract political rents by policy centralization. Referendums thus restrict representatives’ ability for rent extraction. An empirical analysis using a panel of Swiss cantons from 1980 to 1998 supports the hypothesis that centralization is less likely under referendum decision-making.

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Paper provided by Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung) in its series Marburg Working Papers on Economics with number 200419.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming in
Handle: RePEc:mar:volksw:200419
Contact details of provider: Postal: Universitätsstraße 25, 35037 Marburg
Phone: 06421/28-1722
Fax: 06421/28-4858
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  1. Perotti, Roberto & Kontopoulos, Yianos, 2002. "Fragmented fiscal policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 191-222, November.
  2. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Lars P. Feld, 2001. "On Government Centralization and Budget Referendums: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 615, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Wilson, John Douglas & Wildasin, David E., 2004. "Capital tax competition: bane or boon," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(6), pages 1065-1091, June.
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  14. Redoano, Michela & Scharf, Kimberly A., 2004. "The political economy of policy centralization: direct versus representative democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 799-817, March.
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  17. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1997. "Political Economics and Macroeconomic Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 1759, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  29. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
  30. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
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