The Political Economy of Inter-Regional Fiscal Flows
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The Political Economy of Inter-Regional Fiscal Flows

Measurement, Determinants and Effects on Country Stability

Edited by Núria Bosch, Marta Espasa and Albert Solé Ollé

Struggles over what a region receives, or should receive, from the budget of the central government are common to many countries. Discussions often focus on the measures of ‘net fiscal flows’ or ‘fiscal balances’ provided by the government or other actors. This unique book shows just how these flows are computed then interpreted and clarifies the often misunderstood economic and political motives that explain why some regions receive more monies than others.
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Comment VI

Carles Boix


Carles Boix ‘Federalism and inter-regional redistribution’ stands out as an important, original contribution to the political economy of federalism. In that chapter Jonathan Rodden makes two important contributions – one empirical, the other theoretical – to the study of the political economy of federalism. In the first place, he offers comparable data on the extent of inter-regional fiscal flows in nine federations by looking at the size of intergovernmental grants and their impact over the per capita income of regional units. The European Union, India and the United States engage in little inter-territorial redistribution. Argentina and Brazil have some redistribution – but hardly of a progressive nature. Finally, Australia, Germany, Spain and Canada show a notable level of redistribution. In the second place, he sketches a new theory of the political and economic mechanisms that explain variation in inter-regional redistribution across federations. As Rodden rightly notes, current explanations are inadequate. Pure economic theories of fiscal federalism cannot explain most of the cross-national variance in fiscal flows. Culture-based explanations (emphasizing differences in national commitments to solidarity) do not match the historical dynamics of the cases. Finally, straightforward redistributive stories à la Meltzer–Richards predict the opposite of what the chapter finds out: unequal federations actually redistribute less than equal ones. Jonathan Rodden’s political-economic theory of federal bargains unfolds as follows. In all federations there is a potential coalition of low-income units interested in imposing redistributive policies. However, that potential redistributive coalition only forms and achieves its goals under a particular institutional configuration: a parliamentarian system,...

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