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The decentralization of public services : lessons from the theory of the firm

Listed author(s):
  • Cremer, Jaques
  • Estache, Antonio
  • Seabright, Paul
  • DEC

The literature on the theory of the firm is rich in theoretical and practical insights. The key messages in this overview are the following: (a) the modern theory of the firm provides many insights into political organization, for political jurisdictions can be viewed as pseudo-firms that provide services and that group together various kinds of decisionmaking activities. (b) questions about decentralization in government are questions about the allocation of control rights. If contractual relation were complete, it would not matter whether power were decentralized, as contracts would specify everything to be done at each level of government. There would be no need for discretion; (c) how much to decentralize depends on which level of government will have the most incentive to bring about desired outcomes. Centralized governments may be better at coordinating things but tend to be less accountable than decentralized governments (with important expections); and (d) the organizational design of government affects not only incentives to make decisions but also incentives to gather the information on which those decisions are based.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1345.

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Date of creation: 31 Aug 1994
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1345
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