Fiscal Equivalence: Principle and Predation in the Public Administration of Justice

Originally published in Social Philosophy and Policy

Fiscal equivalence in the public administration of justice requires local police and courts to be financed exclusively by the populations that benefit from their services. Within a polycentric framework, broad based taxation to achieve fiscal equivalence is a desirable principle of public finance because it conceptually allows for the provision of justice to be determined by constituent’s preferences, and increases the political accountability of service providers to constituents. However, the overproduction of justice services can readily occur when the benefits of the justice system are not enjoyed equally. Paradoxically, the same properties that make fiscal equivalence desirable by imposing restraint and control between constituents and local government also create internal pressures for agents of the state to engage in predatory, revenue-generating behavior.

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