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As new federations take shape and old ones are revived around the world, a difficult challenge is to create incentives for fiscal discipline. By combining theory, quantitative analysis, and historical and contemporary case studies, this book lays out the first systematic explanation of why decentralized countries have had dramatically different fiscal experiences. It provides insights into current policy debates from Latin America to the European Union, and a new perspective on a tension between the promise and peril of federalism that has characterized the literature since The Federalist Papers.