DP7244 The Architecture of Federations: Constitutions, Bargaining, and Moral Hazard

Author(s): Anke Kessler, Christoph Luelfesmann, Gordon M Myers
Publication Date: March 2009
Keyword(s): Constitutions, Decentralization, Federalism, Grants, Political Bargaining
JEL(s): D23, D78, H21, H77
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=7244

The paper studies a federal system where a region provides non-contractible essential inputs for the successful implementation of a local public policy project with spill-overs, and where bargaining between different levels of government may ensure efficient decision making ex post. We ask whether the authority over the public policy measure should rest with the local government or with the central government, allowing financial relationships within the federation to be designed optimally. Centralization is shown to dominate when governments are benevolent. With regionally biased governments, both centralization and decentralization are suboptimal as long as political bargaining does not take place. With bargaining, however, the first best can often be achieved under decentralization, but not under centralization. At the root of this result is the alignment of decision making over essential inputs and project size under decentralized governance.