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Public Finance and the Extent of the Voting Franchise: A Survey of Historical Cases and New Evidence from Early U.S. States

PFM, Vol. 12 No. 3, (2012)

How does the extent of the voting franchise impact public finance in a democracy? In this paper I discuss that question from theoretical and historical perspectives. There is no simple relationship between the extent of the voting franchise and public finance, either in the total size of government spending or the allocation of that spending among different functions. Instead, franchise extensions are the product of the interaction of various groups in the polity, and the process by which the franchise extension occurs is a crucial factor in determining the government budget. Evidence from several historical periods is discussed, as well as new evidence from the U.S. states in the early Nineteenth Century.

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