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Federalism and Public Choice

  • Hills, Roderick

This paper is a draft chapter for an edited collection on Law and Public Choice being published by Edward Elgar and edited by Dan Farber and Anne Joseph O’Connell. The chapter provides an overview of public choice literature regarding three aspects of federalism - exit-based normative justifications for federal regimes, voice-based normative justifications for federal regimes, and positive theories for how federal regimes are sustained through the political process. In general, I suggest that the most promising trend in public choice theory is the effort of economists, political scientists, and lawyers to tackle the thorny question of “voice” in federal regimes - that is, how subnational politics differs in federal regimes from the politics of unitary states. Moreover, the case for federalism based on exit critically depends on the argument for federalism based on improvement of ”voice.” Otherwise, migration from one city or state to another to escape predatory regimes would simply be pointless movement out of a ”Leviathan” frying pan into a ”Leviathan” fire. Public choice theorists seem to have an inveterate suspicion of claims that subnational government facilitates political participation, perhaps because the entire tradition of public choice is based on the theoretical impossibility that collective action can accurately represent individuals’ preferences and values. Yet nothing in the conventional account of how decentralization improves political ”voice” is inconsistent with the abstract principles of public choice theory.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 13625.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13625
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  1. Besley, Timothy J. & Coate, Stephen, 2000. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory And Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 2381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Roger H. Gordon, 1990. "Can Capital Income Taxes Survive in Open Economies?," NBER Working Papers 3416, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Easterly, William & Baqir, Reza & Alesina, Alberto, 2000. "Redistributive Public Employment," Scholarly Articles 4553013, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  5. SALMON, Pierre, 2005. "Horizontal competition among governments," LEG - Document de travail - Economie 2005-02, LEG, Laboratoire d'Economie et de Gestion, CNRS, Université de Bourgogne.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Curley Effect: The Economics of Shaping the Electorate," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-19, April.
  7. Lockwood, Ben, 2002. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(2), pages 313-37, April.
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  9. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  10. Rodden, Jonathan, 2003. "Reviving Leviathan: Fiscal Federalism and the Growth of Government," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(04), pages 695-729, September.
  11. Inman, Robert P. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L., 1996. "Designing tax policy in federalist economies: An overview," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 307-334, June.
  12. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2004. "Decentralization Dilemma: Measuring the Degree and Evaluating the Outcomes," MPRA Paper 204, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Nov 2005.
  13. Caplan, Bryan, 2001. "When is two better than one? How federalism mitigates and intensifies imperfect political competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 99-119, April.
  14. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521630351 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Dilip Mookherjee & Pranab K. Bardhan, 2000. "Capture and Governance at Local and National Levels," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 135-139, May.
  16. 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.
  17. Tolley, George S., 1974. "The welfare economics of city bigness," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 324-345, July.
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