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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. Lockwood, Ben, 1998. "Distributive Politics and the Costs of Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 2046, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1998. "Redistributive Public Employment," NBER Working Papers 6746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  5. 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.
  6. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1176-1206, 09.
  7. Pierre Salmon, 2006. "Horizontal Competition Among Governments," Chapters, in: Handbook of Fiscal Federalism, chapter 2 Edward Elgar.
  8. Rodden, Jonathan, 2003. "Reviving Leviathan: Fiscal Federalism and the Growth of Government," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(04), pages 695-729, September.
  9. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 2006. "The Power to Tax," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521027922.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Ben Lockwood, 2006. "The Political Economy of Decentralization," Chapters, in: Handbook of Fiscal Federalism, chapter 1 Edward Elgar.
  13. Gordon, Roger H, 1992. " Can Capital Income Taxes Survive in Open Economies?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(3), pages 1159-80, July.
  14. Sharma, Chanchal Kumar, 2004. "Decentralization Dilemma: Measuring the Degree and Evaluating the Outcomes," MPRA Paper 204, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Nov 2005.
  15. 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.
  16. Tolley, George S., 1974. "The welfare economics of city bigness," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 324-345, July.
  17. Wellisch,Dietmar, 2000. "Theory of Public Finance in a Federal State," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521630351.
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