Fiscal Decentralization in Spain: An Asymmetric Transition to Democracy
Therese J. McGuire
Asymmetric fiscal decentralization, by which we mean different fiscal arrangements between the central government and different groups of, or individual, lower-level governments, may be justified from an economic efficiency perspective. As argued by Tiebout (1956), Oates (1972) and others, a decentralized system of regional and local governments is better able to accommodate differences in tastes for public goods and services. This efficiency argument calls for decentralization of fiscal authority to regional and local governments, but not necessarily asymmetric decentralization. However, when the differences in tastes for public goods and services arise out of differences in history, culture and language across regions of a country, asymmetric treatment may be justified. History, culture and language may influence how a group of people (a region) views autonomy, independence and fiscal authority. Some regions may have had experience with autonomous government in the past, they may have a culture that is strongly reliant upon (or leery of) the central government, or they may be fearful of losing their separate languages if they do not have special arrangements. To accommodate differences in taste for independence, autonomy, and fiscal authority, it may be necessary to have different fiscal arrangements between the central government and the different regions comprising the country.
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