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Experimentation in Federal Systems

  • Steven Callander
  • Bård Harstad

We present a model where heterogeneous districts choose both whether to experiment and the policies to experiment with. Since districts learn from each other, the first-best requires that policy experiments converge so that innovations are useful also for neighbors. However, the equilibrium implies the reverse - policy divergence - since each district uses its policy choice to discourage free-riding. We then study a clumsy central government that harmonizes final policy choices. This progressive concentration of power induces a policy tournament that can increase the incentive to experiment and encourage policy convergence. We derive the best political regime as well as the optimal levels of heterogeneity, transparency, prizes, and intellectual property rights.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19601.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19601
Note: POL
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  1. Bård Harstad, 2007. "Harmonization and Side Payments in Political Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 871-889, June.
  2. Cripps, Martin & Keller, Godfrey & Rady, Sven, 2003. "Strategic Experimentation with Exponential Bandits," Discussion Papers in Economics 4, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  4. Jacques Cremer & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2000. "Federal Mandates by Popular Demand," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 905-927, October.
  5. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political Economics and Public Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2235, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political economics and macroeconomic policy," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 22, pages 1397-1482 Elsevier.
  7. Strumpf, Koleman S, 2002. " Does Government Decentralization Increase Policy Innovation?," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(2), pages 207-41.
  8. Koleman S. Strumpf & Felix Oberholzer-Gee, 2002. "Endogenous Policy Decentralization: Testing the Central Tenet of Economic Federalism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-36, February.
  9. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1996. "Federal Fiscal Constitutions: Risk Sharing and Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(3), pages 623-46, May.
  10. Lockwood, Ben, 2002. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(2), pages 313-37, April.
  11. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
  12. Kollman, Ken & Miller, John H & Page, Scott E, 2000. "Decentralization and the Search for Policy Solutions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 102-28, April.
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