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Protestantism and Government Spending: a Negative Relationship? An Empirical Application to Swiss Cantons

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  • Justina AV Fischer
  • Friedrich Schneider

Abstract

Recent empirical growth literature suggests that cultural factors play a decisive role in economic development, while empirical evidence for their impact on government activity remains scant. In this paper, we conjecture based on Weber’s Protestant Ethics that ‚Protestant values’ such as self-reliance and austerity should affect both the size and scope of governments. More specifically, we hypothesize that smaller government budgets should be observable in more Protestant jurisdictions. Using a panel of subfederal expenditure in 26 Swiss cantons from 1980 to 1998 we find supporting evidence, observing that the share of Protestants in the cantonal residential population exerts a spending dampening impact. Our results suggest that cultural factors should not be omitted from future public finance analyses.

Suggested Citation

  • Justina AV Fischer & Friedrich Schneider, 2008. "Protestantism and Government Spending: a Negative Relationship? An Empirical Application to Swiss Cantons," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2008 2008-03, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:dp2008:2008-03
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lars P. Feld & Justina A.V. Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2010. "The Effect Of Direct Democracy On Income Redistribution: Evidence For Switzerland," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(4), pages 817-840, October.
    2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    3. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
    4. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina Fischer, 2007. "The bigger the better? Evidence of the effect of government size on life satisfaction around the world," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 267-292, March.
    5. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    6. Feld, Lars P & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2001. "Does Direct Democracy Reduce Public Debt? Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 109(3-4), pages 347-370, December.
    7. Lipset, Seymour Martin, 1959. "Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy1," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 69-105, March.
    8. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2008. "Direct democracy and life satisfaction revisited: new evidence for Switzerland," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 227-255, June.
    9. Tiago Cavalcanti & Stephen Parente & Rui Zhao, 2007. "Religion in macroeconomics: a quantitative analysis of Weber’s thesis," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 32(1), pages 105-123, July.
    10. Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Demokratieindizes f�r die Kantone der Schweiz," IEW - Working Papers 023, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. Weingast, Barry R, 1995. "The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-31, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Baur & Pierre-Alain Bruchez & Barbara Schlaffer, 2013. "Institutions for Crisis Prevention: the Case of Switzerland," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 4, pages 10-21, July.
    2. Justina AV Fischer & Antonio Rodriguez-Andr�s, 2008. "Political institutions and suicide: A regional analysis of Switzerland," TWI Research Paper Series 33, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Protestantism; Culture; Government Spending; Public Finance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • H30 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - General

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