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Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France

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  • Noel D. Johnson
  • Mark Koyama

Abstract

How is rule of law established? We address this question by exploring the effect of increases in fiscal capacity on the establishment of well-enforced, formal, legal standards in a preindustrial economy. Between 1550 and 1700, there were over 2,000 witch trials in France. Prosecuting a witch required local judges to significantly deviate from formal rules of evidence. Hence, we exploit the significant variation across time and space in witch trials and fiscal capacity across French regions between 1550 and 1700 to show that increases in fiscal capacity were associated with increased adherence to the formal rule of law. As fiscal capacity increased, local judges increasingly upheld de jure rules, and the frequency of witch trials declined.

Suggested Citation

  • Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2014. "Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 77-112.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/674900
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    Cited by:

    1. Tuan-Hwee Sng & Chiaki Moriguchi, 2014. "Asia’s little divergence: state capacity in China and Japan before 1850," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(4), pages 439-470, December.
    2. Ko, Chiu Yu & Koyama, Mark & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2014. "Unified China; Divided Europe," MPRA Paper 60418, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Noel D., Johnson & Mark, Koyama, 2012. "Standardizing the fiscal state: cabal tax farming as an Intermediate Institution in early-modern England and France," MPRA Paper 40403, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Anderson, R. Warren & Johnson, Noel D & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "From the Persecuting to the Protective State? Jewish Expulsions and Weather Shocks from 1100 to 1800," MPRA Paper 44228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2014. "Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 77-112.
    6. Finley, Theresa & Koyama, Mark, 2016. "Plague, Politics, and Pogroms: The Black Death, Rule of Law, and the persecution of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire," MPRA Paper 72110, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Crettez, Bertrand & Deffains, Bruno & Musy, Olivier, 2016. "French legal origins: A Tocquevilian view," MPRA Paper 72582, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Ko, Chiu Yu & Koyama, Mark & Sng, Tuan-Hwee, 2014. "Unified China and Divided Europe," CEI Working Paper Series 2014-7, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    9. Johnson, Noel, 2015. "Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France," MPRA Paper 63598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    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. Koyama, Mark & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2015. "The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China," MPRA Paper 62103, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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