Public Choice

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 55–63

Representative versus direct democracy: A Tiebout test of relative performance

  • Rexford E. Santerre

DOI: 10.1007/BF00239560

Cite this article as:
Santerre, R.E. Public Choice (1986) 48: 55. doi:10.1007/BF00239560


This study has used a Tiebout-type empirical model to analyze the overall differences in performance between representative and direct democratic forms of local government. In agreement with the underlying theory of representative democracy, representative forms of local government are found to be significantly inefficient relative to the direct democratic form of local government. The findings also indicate that a great similarity in efficiency exists between council-manager and mayor-council forms of local government. Both forms of local government appear to be equally inefficient compared to the open-town meeting. Further empirical analysis demonstrates that the cost of local representative government failure may be as high as 13 percent of the typical community's property tax base, which may be cause for some alarm. It should be mentioned that the results do not suggest that open-town meeting forms of government are necessarily efficient. (The median-voter model argues otherwise.) The results only indicate that the open-town meeting can be considered more efficient relative to the other forms of local government.

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rexford E. Santerre
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsBentley CollegeWaltham

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