The High Price of Electing City Treasurers

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Now that I can run amok downloading NBER working papers, there’s lots of interesting research being done, much of it confirming things I already believe. For example, I think that in the United States we have too many elected officials and should rely more on appointed officials. Proponents of multiple independently elected officials say it’s more democratic, but I say you can’t have accountability when people can’t monitor the people they’re supposed to vote for, and it’s too much to ask citizens to keep track of dozens of different elected officials.

And Alexander Whalley steps up to the plate with a new reason to hate elections:

This paper investigates whether methods of public official selection affect policymaking in cities. I draw on the unique characteristics of California’s city referendum process to identify the causal effect of city treasurers’ method of selection on their cities’ debt management policies. I utilize a regression discontinuity strategy based on the effect of narrowly-passing appointive city treasurer referendums on city borrowing costs. The results indicate that appointive treasurers reduce a city’s cost of borrowing by 13% to 23%. The results imply that if all cities in California with elected treasurers were to appoint them, total borrowing expenditures would be reduced by more than $20 million per year. Appointive city treasurers appear to reduce borrowing costs primarily through the refinancing of expensive debt at lower interest rates.

So figure out if your city elects its treasurer, and if it does then you’d better . . . start complaining . . . to someone . . . not really sure who’d have the authority to change something like this.