In This Review

Metropolitan Governance in the Federalist Americas: Strategies for Equitable and Integrated Development
Metropolitan Governance in the Federalist Americas: Strategies for Equitable and Integrated Development
Edited by Peter K. Spink, Peter M. Ward, and Robert H. Wilso
University of Notre Dame Press, 2012, 360 pp.

Throughout the Western Hemisphere, frustration with dysfunctional national governments is inspiring a search for alternatives at the supranational, regional, and very local levels. This scholarly volume highlights the potential for good governance at an intermediate tier between the federal and the municipal levels: large metropolitan regions, which are well suited, the book’s contributors assert, to address pressing collective-action problems, such as natural disasters, inefficient infrastructure, and the unequal provision of social services. But the six country studies (on Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United States, and Venezuela) uncover few reasons for hope. Sustained experiments with metropolitan governance are surprisingly few in number, and they often fail to meet the contributors’ expectations. Several powerful forces appear to stand in the way: popular preferences for the national government or for very local politics, a lack of incentives to pioneer new institutions, inadequate metropolitan-level tax bases, and widespread reluctance to redistribute resources from wealthier to poorer areas. Apparently, the contributors’ preferences, particularly for the purposeful redistribution of wealth, are not widely shared in any of the countries in question.