NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Centralized versus Decentralized Provision of Local Public Goods: A Political Economy Analysis

Timothy Besley, Stephen Coate

NBER Working Paper No. 7084
Issued in April 1999
NBER Program(s):   PE

This paper takes a fresh look at the trade-off between centralized and decentralized provision of local public goods. The point of departure is to model a centralized system as one in which public spending is financed by general taxation, but districts can receive different levels of local public goods. In a world of benevolent governments, the disadvantages of centralization stressed in the existing literature disappear, suggesting that the case for decentralization must be driven by political economy considerations. Our political economy analysis assumes that under decentralization public goods are selected by locally elected representatives, while under a centralized system policy choices are determined by a legislature consisting of elected representatives from each district. We then study the role of taste heterogeneity, spillovers and legislative behavior in determining the case for centralization.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7084

Published: Besley, Timothy and Stephen Coate. "Centralized Versus Decentralized Provision Of Local Public Goods: A Political Economy Approach," Journal of Public Economics, 2003, v87(12,Dec), 2611-2637.

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