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When the State is Untrustworthy: Public Finance and Private Banking in Porfirian Mexico

  • MAURER, NOEL
  • GOMBERG, ANDREI

All sovereign governments face a commitment problem: how can they promise to honor their own agreements? The standard solutions involve reputation or political institutions capable of tying the hands of the government. Mexico's government in the 1880s used neither solution. It compensated its creditors by enabling them to extract rents from the rest of the economy. These rents came through special privileges over banking services and the right to administer federal taxes. Returns were extremely high: as long as creditors believed that the government would refrain from confiscating all their assets (let alone repaying their debts) less than twice a decade, they would break even.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 64 (2004)
Issue (Month): 04 (December)
Pages: 1087-1107

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:64:y:2004:i:04:p:1087-1107_04
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  1. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," NBER Working Papers 4274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  3. Bulow, Jeremy & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1989. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 155-78, February.
  4. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1986. "The pure theory of country risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 481-513, June.
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  5. Bordo, Michael D. & Vegh, Carlos A., 2002. "What if Alexander Hamilton had been Argentinean? A comparison of the early monetary experiences of Argentina and the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 459-494, April.
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