Mark Hallerberg
The Common Pool Problem in European Parliaments: The Interrelationship of Electoral and Legislative Institutions

Arbeitsbereich II; 14
ISSN: 0948-0080

Plurality electoral systems in countries like the United Kingdom have a "winner-take-all" rule where only the top vote-getter in each district wins a seat in parliament. One way incumbent legislators can appeal for support is to bring home particularistic benefits, such as public works projects. This incentive structure leads to the common pool problem--since a representative's district pays only a small portion of the central government's tax revenues, she will ask for more spending than when the central government pays for them than when they have to be paid for with local taxes. Parliamentary rules which restrict or eliminate the ability of legislators to amend the governmentís budget proposal strengthen the agenda-setting power of the government where it is most needed, in states with single member districts. The importance of such restrictive rules, and for that matter whether they decrease or increase the common pool problem, also depends on whether or not the common pool problem has already been solved inside the cabinet. In cases where the government proposes a budget where the common pool problem is endemic and where the problem is not developed in the legislature, a weakening of the agenda-setting power of the executive is expected to lead to a lower budget. This situation is most likely to occur in states which have proportional representation systems and where there is little incentive for the legislature to provide particularistic benefits to their districts.