A Sequential Theory of Decentralization: Latin American Cases in Comparative Perspective
Both advocates and critics of decentralization assume that decentralization invariably increases the power of subnational governments. However, a closer examination of the consequences of decentralization across countries reveals that the magnitude of such change can range from substantial to insignificant. In this article, I propose a sequential theory of decentralization that has three main characteristics: (1) it defines decentralization as a process, (2) it takes into account the territorial interests of bargaining actors, and (3) it incorporates policy feedback effects. I argue that the sequencing of different types of decentralization (fiscal, administrative, and political) is a key determinant of the evolution of intergovernmental balance of power. I measure this evolution in the four largest Latin American countries and apply the theory to the two extreme cases (Colombia and Argentina). I show that, contrary to commonly held opinion, decentralization does not necessarily increase the power of governors and mayors.
c1 Tulia G. Falleti is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, 208 South 37th Street, 202 Stiteler Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-6215 (firstname.lastname@example.org).