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Tax farming and the origins of state capacity in England and France

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  • Johnson, Noel D.
  • Koyama, Mark

Abstract

How did modern and centralized fiscal institutions emerge? We develop a model that explains (i) why pre-industrial states relied on private individuals to collect taxes; (ii) why after 1600 both England and France moved from competitive methods for collecting revenues to allocating the right to collect taxes to a small group of financiers—an intermediate institution that we call cabal tax farming—and (iii) why this centralization led to investments in fiscal capacity and increased fiscal standardization. We provide detailed historical evidence that supports our prediction that rulers abandoned the competitive allocation of tax rights in favor of cabal tax farming in order to gain access to inside credit, and that this transition was accompanied by investments in standardization. Finally (iv) we show why this intermediate institution proved to be self-undermining in England, where it was quickly replaced by direct collection, but lasted in France until the French Revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2014. "Tax farming and the origins of state capacity in England and France," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 1-20.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:51:y:2014:i:c:p:1-20
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2013.07.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Kammas, Pantelis & Sarantides, Vassilis, 2020. "Democratisation and tax structure in the presence of home production: Evidence from the Kingdom of Greece," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 219-236.
    4. Chiu Yu Ko & Mark Koyama & Tuan†Hwee Sng, 2018. "Unified China And Divided Europe," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 59(1), pages 285-327, February.
    5. Hansen, Bradley A. & Hansen, Mary Eschelbach, 2016. "The historian's craft and economics," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 349-370, June.
    6. Koyama, Mark & Moriguchi, Chiaki & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2018. "Geopolitics and Asia’s little divergence: State building in China and Japan after 1850," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 178-204.
    7. Dessí, Roberta & Piccolo, Salvatore, 2016. "Merchant guilds, taxation and social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 90-110.
    8. Ma, Debin & Rubin, Jared, 2019. "The Paradox of Power: Principal-agent problems and administrative capacity in Imperial China (and other absolutist regimes)," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 277-294.
    9. Sng, Tuan-Hwee & Moriguchi, Chiaki, 2014. "Asia’s Little Divergence: State Capacity in China and Japan before 1850," CEI Working Paper Series 2014-6, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    10. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "Legal centralization and the birth of the secular state," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 959-978.
    11. Theresa Finley & Mark Koyama, 2018. "Plague, Politics, and Pogroms: The Black Death, the Rule of Law, and the Persecution of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(2), pages 253-277.
    12. Peter J. Boettke & Rosolino A. Candela, 2020. "Productive specialization, peaceful cooperation and the problem of the predatory state: lessons from comparative historical political economy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 182(3), pages 331-352, March.
    13. Ilia Murtazashvili & Ennio E. Piano, 2019. "Governance of shale gas development: Insights from the Bloomington school of institutional analysis," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 32(2), pages 159-179, June.
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    15. Rota, Mauro, 2016. "Military spending, fiscal capacity and the democracy puzzle," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 41-51.
    16. Deng, Hanzhi, 2021. "The merit of misfortune: Taiping Rebellion and the rise of indirect taxation in modern China, 1850s-1900s," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 108564, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    18. Jared Rubin & Debin Ma, 2017. "The Paradox of Power: Understanding Fiscal Capacity in Imperial China and Absolutist Regimes," Working Papers 17-02, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    19. Koyama, Mark, 2016. "The long transition from a natural state to a liberal economic order," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(S), pages 29-39.
    20. Yasin Arslantaş & Antoine Pietri & Mehrdad Vahabi, 2020. "State predation in historical perspective: the case of Ottoman müsadere practice during 1695–1839," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 182(3), pages 417-442, March.
    21. Slivinski, Al & Sussman, Nathan, 2019. "Tax administration and compliance: evidence from medieval Paris," CEPR Discussion Papers 13512, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    22. Johnson, Noel, 2015. "Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France," MPRA Paper 63598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. Ali, Merima & Fjeldstad, Odd‐Helge & Shifa, Abdulaziz B., 2020. "European colonization and the corruption of local elites: The case of chiefs in Africa," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 80-100.
    24. Geloso, Vincent J. & Salter, Alexander W., 2020. "State capacity and economic development: Causal mechanism or correlative filter?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 372-385.
    25. Ennio E. Piano, 2019. "State capacity and public choice: a critical survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 178(1), pages 289-309, January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    State capacity; Fiscal capacity; Standardization; Tax farming; Transaction costs;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • K00 - Law and Economics - - General - - - General (including Data Sources and Description)
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact

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