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The Theory of Local Public Goods Twenty-Five Years After Tiebout: A Perspective

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz

This paper asks, under what conditions can the Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics be extended to economies with local public goods? We show that there are some fairly restrictive sets of assumptions under which a competitive local public goods equilibrium (if it exists) is efficient; more generally, however, competitive local public goods equilibria may be inefficient in the allocation of individuals among communities, in the number of communities, and in the level and kinds of public goods provided. The primary sources of inefficiency are identified and analyzed; these "market" failures are closely related to some important policy issues concerning, for instance, urban concentralization, fiscal decentralization, and regional redistribution. In communities in which landlords control the public sector, the level and kinds of public goods provided may be incorrect, and what goods are provided are supplied inefficiently. In contrast, in communities in which renters control the public sector, there are no incentives for efficiency in the supply of public goods. Because of what we refer to as rental capitalization, there may in fact be perverse incentives with respect to the kinds of public goods or "bads" provided. Not only is it the case that not every competitive equilibrium is Pareto optimal, but not every Pareto efficient allocation can be sustained by a competitive local public goods equilibrium (with the appropriate lump sum redistributions) . Just as the Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics does not adequately reflect the vices and virtues of competition in the market economy with purely private goods, so too here: the virtues of a decentralized mechanism for providing public goods may be vastly underestimated by our analysis.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w0954.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0954.

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Date of creation: Aug 1982
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Publication status: published as Stiglitz, Joseph E. "The Theory of Local Public Goods Twenty-five Years After Tiebout: A Perspective." Local Provision of Public Services: The Tiebout Model after Twenty-five Years, Academic Press, (1983), pp. 17-53.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0954
Note: PE
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  1. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1974. "Incentives and Risk Sharing in Sharecropping," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 219-55, April.
  2. Groves, Theodore & Ledyard, John O, 1977. "Optimal Allocation of Public Goods: A Solution to the "Free Rider" Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(4), pages 783-809, May.
  3. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
  4. Spence, Michael, 1976. "Product Selection, Fixed Costs, and Monopolistic Competition," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 217-35, June.
  5. Arnott, Richard J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1979. "Aggregate Land Rents, Expenditure on Public Goods, and Optimal City Size," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 471-500, November.
  6. Flatters, Frank & Henderson, Vernon & Mieszkowski, Peter, 1974. "Public goods, efficiency, and regional fiscal equalization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 99-112, May.
  7. Lancaster, Kelvin, 1975. "Socially Optimal Product Differentiation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(4), pages 567-85, September.
  8. Berglas, Eitan, 1976. "Distribution of tastes and skills and the provision of local public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 409-423, November.
  9. Stiglitz, J. E., 1974. "The demand for education in public and private school systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 349-385, November.
  10. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
  11. Slutsky, Steven, 1977. "A voting model for the allocation of public goods: Existence of an equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 299-325, April.
  12. Grossman, Sanford J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1980. "Stockholder Unanimity in Making Production and Financial Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(3), pages 543-66, May.
  13. Buchanan, James M. & Goetz, Charles J., 1972. "Efficiency limits of fiscal mobility: An assessment of the tiebout model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 25-43, April.
  14. Kramer, Gerald H, 1973. "On a Class of Equilibrium Conditions for Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(2), pages 285-97, March.
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