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Sustainable Fiscal Policy in a Federal System Switzerland as an Example

  • Prof. Dr. Lars P. Feld


  • Prof. Dr. Gebhard Kirchgässner


How a sustainable fiscal policy can be performed in a federal system is not only a Swiss problem but is also discussed in other federal countries like Germany and Austria, and in the European Union. Contrary to most other countries, the Swiss Fiscal system is characterised by an extensive fiscal federalism with high fiscal autonomy at all govermental levels, by direct popular rights which include fiscal referenda at the cantonal and local levels, and by particular constitutional and/or statutory fiscal restraints in order to prevent excessive public debt. In this paper, the effects of these consitutional clauses on public finances are investigated. Using a panel of the 26 Swiss cantons from 1980 to 1998, we provide evidence that direct democracy leads to significantly lower expenditure and revenue. The fiscal constraint, on the other hand, significantly reduces budget deficits. Total, cantonal as well as local expenditure and revneue are the lower the higher the share of local expenditure is.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen in its series University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2004 with number 2004-09.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:usg:dp2004:2004-09
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  3. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 1999. "Public Debt and Budgetary Procedures: Top Down or Bottom Up? Some Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-38.
  10. Lars P. Feld & Christoph A. Schaltegger, 2005. "Voters as a Hard Budget Constraint: On the Determination of Intergovernmental Grants," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-21, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  11. Feld, Lars P. & Schaltegger, Christoph A. & Schnellenbach, Jan, 2008. "On government centralization and fiscal referendums," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 611-645, May.
  12. Lars P Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The political economy of direct legislation: direct democracy and local decision-making," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 329-367, October.
  13. Sexton, Terri A. & Sheffrin, Steven M. & O’Sullivan, Arthur, 1999. "Proposition 13: Unintended Effects and Feasible Reforms," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 1), pages 99-112, March.
  14. Downes, Thomas A. & Dye, Richard F. & McGuire, Therese J., 1998. "Do Limits Matter? Evidence on the Effects of Tax Limitations on Student Performance," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 401-417, May.
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  21. Pommerehne, Werner W., 1978. "Institutional approaches to public expenditure : Empirical evidence from Swiss municipalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 255-280, April.
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  23. Bergstrom, Theodore C. & Roberts, Judith A. & Rubinfeld, Daniel L. & Shapiro, Perry, 1988. "A test for efficiency in the supply of public education," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 289-307, April.
  24. Downes, Thomas A. & Figlio, David N., 1999. "Do Tax and Expenditure Limits Provide a Free Lunch? Evidence on the Link Between Limits and Public Sector Service Quality," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 1), pages 113-28, March.
  25. Lars P. Feld & John G. Matsusaka, 2000. "Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss," CESifo Working Paper Series 323, CESifo Group Munich.
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  27. Ted Bergstrom & Judy Roberts & Dan Rubinfeld & Perry Shapiro, 1988. "A Test for Efficiency in the Supply of Local Public Education," Papers _036, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
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