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Institutions, Factor Prices, and Taxation: Virtues of Strong States?

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  • Daron Acemoglu

Abstract

Many of the most pernicious economic institutions and policies create entry barriers or manipulate factor prices to transfer resources from entrepreneurs and workers to groups that hold political power. These inefficiencies partly result from the fact that direct and efficient fiscal instruments that can be used for taxation and redistribution of resources are absent. One might then conclude that increasing state capacity and expanding the set of available fiscal instruments should improve the allocation of resources by preventing the use of these inefficient, indirect methods of redistribution. This reasoning ignores the effect of greater state capacity and the change in the set of available fiscal instruments on the political equilibrium, however. Because the availability of more efficient means of taxation increases the potential benefits of controlling state power, it also intensifies costly political conflict aimed at capturing the control of the state. This indirect effect counteracts the benefits from more efficient taxation and may dominate the direct benefits. The paper establishes the possibility that the allocation of resources may deteriorate substantially in response to an autonomous increase in state capacity and the set of fiscal instruments. It also argues that in the British case, which is a key historical example that points to the central role of increased state capacity in economic development, this change was not autonomous; instead, it was an equilibrium response to changes in political institutions that placed better checks on the exercise of power by the executive. This reasoning suggests that the study of the effect of fiscal capacity and the evaluation of policies aimed at increasing state capacity in less-developed economies should be done in the context of dynamic models of political economy, in which fiscal capacity and political constraints are jointly determined.
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Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu, 2010. "Institutions, Factor Prices, and Taxation: Virtues of Strong States?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 115-119, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:2:p:115-19
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.2.115
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Syropoulos, Constantinos & Zylkin, Thomas, 2015. "The Problem of Peace: A Story of Corruption, Destruction, and Rebellion," School of Economics Working Paper Series 2015-5, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
    2. Gilles Saint‐Paul & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2016. "A Theory of Political Entrenchment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1238-1263, June.
    3. Michael Dorsch & Karl Dunz & Paul Maarek, 2015. "Macro shocks and costly political action in non-democracies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 162(3), pages 381-404, March.
    4. Javed, Omer, 2013. "Determinants of Institutional Quality: A Case Study of IMF Programme Countries," MPRA Paper 51344, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Dorsch, Michael T. & Dunz, Karl & Maarek, Paul, 2016. "Development and inefficient regulation under the threat of revolution," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 1040-1054.
    6. Baltiņa Līga, 2014. "A Place-Based Approach in EU Regional Development and Its Application in Latvia," Baltic Journal of European Studies, De Gruyter Open, vol. 4(1), pages 1-20, June.
    7. David Juárez-Luna & Christian Ghiglino, 2014. "Elite capture of democratic politics: the role of social identity," Working papers DTE 573, CIDE, División de Economía.
    8. Graziella Bertocchi & Andrea Guerzoni, 2010. "Growth, History, or Institutions? What Explains State Fragility in Sub-Saharan Africa," Department of Economics 0625, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    9. Galiani, Sebastian & Torrens, Gustavo, 2014. "Autocracy, democracy and trade policy," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 173-193.
    10. Paul Maarek & Michael Dorsch & Karl Dunz, 2012. "Asymmetric Information and Inefficient Regulation of Firms Under the Threat of Revolution," THEMA Working Papers 2012-42, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    11. Oskenbayev, Yessengali & Yilmaz, Mesut & Abdulla, Kanat, 2013. "Resource concentration, institutional quality and the natural resource curse," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 254-270.
    12. Paul Maarek & Michael Dorsch, 2012. "Inefficient Predation, Information, and Contagious Institutional Change," THEMA Working Papers 2012-32, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    13. Paul Maarek & Michael Dorsch & Karl Dunz, 2012. "Macro Shocks, Regulatory Quality and Costly Political Action," THEMA Working Papers 2012-41, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    14. Olga Chiappinelli, 2016. "Political Corruption in the Execution of Public Contracts," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1607, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    15. Chiappinelli, Olga, 2016. "Political corruption in the execution of public contracts," MPRA Paper 73487, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Pierre André & Paul Maarek, 2017. "Education, social capital and political participation Evidence from school construction in Malian villages," THEMA Working Papers 2017-18, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    17. Dorsch, Michael T. & Maarek, Paul, 2015. "Inefficient predation and political transitions," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 37-48.
    18. Paul Maarek & Michael T. Dorsch, 2015. "Rent seeking, revolutionary threat and coups in non-democracies," THEMA Working Papers 2015-13, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    19. Paul Maarek & Elsa Orgiazzi, 2014. "Labor Share and development," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201410, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
    20. Dina Balalaeva, 2012. "Innovations as Public Goods Provision with Negative Externalities: Role of Parliamentarism," HSE Working papers WP BRP 06/PS/2012, National Research University Higher School of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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