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

  • Noel Maurer

    ()

    (Centro de Investigacion Economica (CIE), Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM))

  • Andrei Gomberg

    ()

    (Centro de Investigacion Economica (CIE), Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM))

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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File URL: http://ftp.itam.mx/pub/academico/inves/gomberg/04-02.pdf
File Function: First version, 2004
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM in its series Working Papers with number 0402.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cie:wpaper:0402
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Web page: http://cie.itam.mx/Email:


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  1. Jeremy A.Rogoff Bulow & Kenneth, 1986. "A Constant Recontracting Model of Sovereign Debt," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 43, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  2. Haber, Stephen H., 1991. "Industrial Concentration and the Capital Markets: A Comparative Study of Brazil, Mexico, and the United States, 1830–1930," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 559-580, September.
  3. De Long, J. Bradford & Shleifer, Andrei, 1993. "Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution," Scholarly Articles 3451302, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Eugene White, 2001. "France's Slow Transition from Privatized to Government-Administered Tax Collection: Tax Farming in the Eighteenth Century," Departmental Working Papers 200116, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
    • Jonathan Eaton & Mark Gersovitz & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1991. "The Pure Theory of Country Risk," NBER Chapters, in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 391-435 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. 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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