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Pathologies of the state

  • Besley, Timothy

This paper uses a simple dynamic model where a government performs three functions: taxation, public spending and contract enforcement to study pathologies in resource allocation by government. A key feature of the approach is that states may invest in their future capacities to raise taxes and protect property rights. Three types of state are shown to be possible in this framework: common-interest states, redistributive states and weak states whose emergence depends on the nature of political institutions. We consider both Pigouvian and Wicksellian benchmarks against which to compare different outcomes that might arise in political equilibrium. The paper argues for a greater focus on weak government and points out that a failure to generate Wicksellian unanimity lies behind them.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 80 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 339-350

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:80:y:2011:i:2:p:339-350
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
  2. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1998. "Law and Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(6), pages 1113-1155, December.
  3. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
  4. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  5. Besley, Timothy J. & Persson, Torsten, 2007. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 6370, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  7. Besley, Timothy J. & Persson, Torsten, 2011. "Fragile States and Development Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 8285, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Why Not a Political Coase Theorem? Social Conflict, Commitment and Politics," NBER Working Papers 9377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production: I--Production Efficiency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(1), pages 8-27, March.
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