Yardstick Competition among Governments: Accountability and Policymaking when Citizens Look Across Borders

ISBN : 9780190499167

Pierre Salmon
272 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2019
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Measuring government effectiveness is essential to ensuring accountability, as is an informed public that is willing and able to hold elected officials and policy-makers accountable. There are various forms of measurement, including against prior experience or compared to some ideal. In Yardstick Competition among Governments, Pierre Salmon argues that a more effective and insightful approach is to use common measures across a variety of countries, state, or other relevant political and economic districts. This facilitates and enables citizens comparing policy outputs in their own jurisdictions with those of others. An advantage of this approach is that it reduces information asymmetries between citizens and public officials, decreasing the costs of monitoring by the former of the latter -along the lines of principal-agent theory. These comparisons can have an effect on citizens' support to incumbents and, as a consequence, also on governments' decisions. By increasing transparency, comparisons by common yardsticks can decrease the influence of interest groups and increase the focus on broader concerns, whether economic growth or others. Salmon takes up complicating factors such as federalism and other forms of multi-level governance, where responsibility can become difficult to disentangle and accountability a challenge. Salmon also highlights the importance of publics with heterogeneous preferences, including variations in how voters interpret their roles, functions, or tasks. This results in the coexistence within the same electorate of different types of voting behavior, not all of them forward-looking. In turn, when incumbents face such heterogeneity, they can treat the response to their decisions as an aggregate non-strategic relation between comparative performance and expected electoral support. Combining theoretical, methodological, and empirical research, Salmon demonstrates how yardstick competition among governments, a consequence of the possibility that citizens look across borders, is a very significant, systemic dimension of governance both at the local and at the national levels.


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: A characterization of political yardstick competition
2.1. Electoral agency
2.1.1. From 'normal' agency to 'political agency'
2.1.2. From 'political agency' to 'electoral agency'
2.1.3. Voters and performance: the principle
2.1.4. Ambiguities in the meaning of governmental performance
2.1.5. Conflicting views among voters
2.1.6. Incumbents and performance
2.2. Yardstick competition in electoral agency
2.2.1 Voters' comparative assessments
2.2.2 The comparisons-based support function
2.2.3. The S-shaped response of voters to comparative performance
2.2.4. Explained variable
2.2.5. Selection and incentives
2.3. Conclusion
Chapter 3: Accountability, information, and yardstick competition
3.1. Accountability
3.1.1 Definitions
3.1.2 Accountability and other dimensions of elections
3.1.3 Is accountability asymmetric?
3.1.4 Elites
3.1.5 Clientelism
3.1.6 Accountability and other ingredients of good governance
3.2. Information asymmetry as an obstacle to downward accountability
3.2.1. Biased information on general policy issues
3.2.2. Biased information on citizens' special interests
3.2.3. Obstacles to assessments of outcomes
3. 3. Yardstick competition to the rescue of accountability
3.3.1. Tournaments and yardstick competition in their original habitat
3.3.2. Transposition
3.3.3. Mimicking versus outperforming
3.4. Conclusion
Chapter 4: Yardstick competition and its cousins
4.1. Mobility-based competition
4.1.1. Policy-induced mobility and mobility-based competition
4.1.2. Compared strengths of the two competition mechanisms
4.1.3. The locus of interaction
4.1.4. Immobile citizens and mobility
4.1.5. Policymaking autonomy
4.1.6. The exit-voice nexus
4.1.7. Mobility-induced diversity and comparability
4.2. Policy learning
4.2.1. The pure case: comparisons by incumbents
4.2.2. On the relation between policy learning and yardstick competition
4.3. Other mechanisms
4.3.1. Peer approval and emulation
4.3.2. Out-of-jurisdiction public opinion
4.3.3. Incumbents' career concerns
4.3.4. Neo-Austrian institutional competition
4.4. Conclusion
Chapter 5: The virtue of narrowing: the fiscal federalism setting
5.1. Yardstick competition as a systemic dimension
5.2. Yardstick competition as an empirical fact
5.2.1. Strategic spatial interaction
5.2.2. Identifying yardstick competition
5.2.3. Neighborhood
5.2.4. Other issues addressed within the internal discussion
5.3. Queries
5.3.1. Status of the empirical results
5.3.2. Beyond neighborhood
5.3.3. Empirical implications of non-linearity
5.3.4. Alternative approaches
5.4. Conclusion
Chapter 6: The challenge of extending: the international setting
6.1. Circumstantial evidence
6.2. Obstacles
6.2.1. Ideological obstacles
6.2.2. Sociological obstacles
6.2.3. Technical obstacles
6.3. The few empirical results obtained so far
6.4. Dealing with complexity and diversity
6.5. Conclusion
Chapter 7: Two heuristic models
7.1 First model: yardstick competition and the allocation of effort
7.1.1. The framework
7.1.2. Differential information asymmetry
7.1.3. Constitutional remedies
7.1.4. Empirical predictions
7.1.5. Yardstick competition and international political relations
7.2. Second model: the impact of comparative underperformance
7.2.1. The framework
7.2.2. Discussion
7.2.3. A check-list of reasons for ineffectiveness
7.3. Conclusion
Chapter 8: Vertical interactions
8.1. Horizontal yardstick competition in multilevel settings
8.1.1. Shared responsibility for outcomes
8.1.2. Split principals
8.2. Vertical competition among governments
8.2.1. Competition for what? Three approaches
8.2.2. Breton's theory of vertical competition
8.2.3. The protection of vertical competition in unitary states
8.3. The EU context
8.3.1. Vertical relationships: the centralization process
8.3.2. Horizontal yardstick competition in the EU context
8.4. Conclusion
Chapter 9. Final comments: perverse effects, advice, and arguments
9.1. Perverse effects
9.1.1. Incompetent voters
9.1.2. Incumbents' incentives
9.2. Advice (or the absence thereof)
9.3. A methodological epilogue
9.3.1. Models
9.3.2. Mechanisms
9.3.3. Arguments
9.4. Conclusion

About the author: 

Pierre Salmon is Professor, Emeritus, at the Universite de Bourgogne-Franche Comte. He has also been professor of economics at the European University Institute and is past-president of the European Public Choice Society. He is the author of Decentralisation as an Incentive Scheme, a seminal article on yardstick competition among governments.

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