Supplying Greener Governance

By using their powers of taxation, regulation, and zoning, government authorities can play a key role in greening a city. Whether a government is up to this job of protecting the environment depends on the incentives facing elected officials and on the resources they control. Richer cities are more likely to have access to the expertise necessary to design effective policies. They can also invest in the monitoring and enforcement that are necessary, along with a well-functioning judicial system, to make regulation work.21 Below I examine four areas in which economic

18. Glaeser and others (1992).

19. Florida (2002); Glaeser, Kolko, and Saiz (2001).

20. Henderson (2002) argues that richer nations decentralize more political power.

21. A well-functioning judicial system signals polluters that they will be held accountable for damage caused to the urban environment. In the United States, the torts system has made many polluters pay millions of dollars for past environmental damage, which makes potential polluters think twice before committing the same offense. If a firm or other entity anticipates a large fine for polluting, then it is more likely to take precautions to minimize the likelihood of a costly event, such as the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. But in countries where courts are known to be corrupt, firms have little incentive to green their production. They can simply conduct business as usual and pay off a judge if they get caught.

development has contributed to improvements in urban environmental quality in the United States. In some cases the relevant regulation has been passed at the national level; however, enforcement has been concentrated in major cities.

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