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Centralized versus Decentralized Provision of Local Public Goods: A Political Economy Analysis

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  • Timothy Besley
  • Stephen Coate

Abstract

This paper takes a fresh look at the trade-off between centralized and decentralized provision of local public goods. The point of departure is to model a centralized system as one in which public spending is financed by general taxation, but districts can receive different levels of local public goods. In a world of benevolent governments, the disadvantages of centralization stressed in the existing literature disappear, suggesting that the case for decentralization must be driven by political economy considerations. Our political economy analysis assumes that under decentralization public goods are selected by locally elected representatives, while under a centralized system policy choices are determined by a legislature consisting of elected representatives from each district. We then study the role of taste heterogeneity, spillovers and legislative behavior in determining the case for centralization.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1999. "Centralized versus Decentralized Provision of Local Public Goods: A Political Economy Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7084 Note: PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 85-114.
    2. Epple, Dennis & Romano, Richard E, 1996. "Public Provision of Private Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 57-84, February.
    3. Fernández, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1999. "Education finance reform and investment in human capital: lessons from California," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 327-350.
    4. James Buchanan & Viktor Vanberg, 1988. "The politicization of market failure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 101-113, May.
    5. Miguel Gouveia, 1996. "The public sector and health care," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 3(3), pages 329-349, July.
    6. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
    7. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinski, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96.
    8. repec:cep:stitep:/1997/334 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Laffond G. & Laslier J. F. & Le Breton M., 1993. "The Bipartisan Set of a Tournament Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 182-201, January.
    10. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    11. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-156, March.
    12. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-264.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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