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The political economy of pricing and capacity decisions for congestible local public goods in a federal state

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This paper studies the political economy of pricing and investment for excludable and congestible public goods in a federal state. Although the model applies to many local congestible public facilities (such as libraries, museums and public swimming facilities), our main motivation is the problem of providing and pricing road infrastructure in federal states. The two-region model we develop allows for spill-overs between regions, it takes into account congestion, and it captures demand heterogeneity both between and within regions. Regional decisions are taken by majority voting; federal decisions are taken by a minimum winning coalition in a legislature of regionally elected representatives. We have the following results. First, when users form the majority in at least one region, decentralized decision making performs certainly better than centralized decision making if spill-overs are not too large. Centralized decisions may yield higher welfare than decentralization only if users have a large majority and the infrastructure in a given region is intensively used by both local and outside users. Second, if non-users form a majority in both regions, centralized decision making and decentralized decision making yield the same socially undesirable outcome, with prices that are much too high. Third, the performance of decentralized supply is strongly enhanced by local self-financing rules; this prevents potential exploitation of users within regions.
Journal: International Tax and Public Finance
ISSN: 0927-5940
Volume: 23
Pages: 934 - 959
Publication year:2016