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The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics

Listed author(s):
  • Besley, Timothy J.
  • Persson, Torsten

Economists generally assume the existence of sufficient institutions to sustain a market economy and tax the citizens. However, this starting point cannot easily be taken for granted in many states, neither in history nor in the developing world of today. This paper develops a framework where "policy choices", regulation of markets and tax rates, are constrained by "economic institutions", which in turn reflect past investments in legal and fiscal state capacity. We study the economic and political determinants of these investments. The analysis shows that common interest public goods, such as fighting external wars, as well as political stability and inclusive political institutions, are conducive to building state capacity. Preliminary empirical evidence based on cross-country data find a number of correlations consistent with the theory.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6370.

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Date of creation: Jun 2007
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6370
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  1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Torsten Persson & Gerard Roland & Guido Tabellini, 2000. "Comparative Politics and Public Finance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1121-1161, December.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  4. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2008. "Wars and State Capacity," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 522-530, 04-05.
  5. Djankov, Simeon & McLiesh, Caralee & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007. "Private credit in 129 countries," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 299-329, May.
  6. Robert G. King & Ross Levine, 1993. "Finance and Growth: Schumpeter Might Be Right," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 717-737.
  7. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-180, January.
  8. Roger Lagunoff, 2001. "A Theory of Constitutional Standards and Civil Liberty," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 109-132.
  9. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "The great reversals: the politics of financial development in the twentieth century," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 5-50, July.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2011. "Emergence And Persistence Of Inefficient States," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 177-208, 04.
  11. 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.
  12. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2004. "Constitutional Rules and Fiscal Policy Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 25-45, March.
  13. Schultz, Kenneth A. & Weingast, Barry R., 2003. "The Democratic Advantage: Institutional Foundations of Financial Power in International Competition," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(01), pages 3-42, December.
  14. Daron Acemoglu, 2006. "Modeling Inefficient Institutions," NBER Working Papers 11940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Djankov, Simeon & La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei, 2008. "The law and economics of self-dealing," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3), pages 430-465, June.
  16. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
  17. Daron Acemoglu & Michael Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2008. "Political Economy of Mechanisms," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 619-641, 05.
  18. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2005. "Unbundling Institutions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 949-995, October.
  19. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
  20. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
  21. Marco Pagano & Paolo F. Volpin, 2005. "The Political Economy of Corporate Governance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1005-1030, September.
  22. Baunsgaard, Thomas & Keen, Michael, 2010. "Tax revenue and (or?) trade liberalization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 563-577, October.
  23. 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.
  24. Patrick O'Brien, 2005. "Fiscal and financial preconditions for the rise of British naval hegemony, 1485-1815," Economic History Working Papers 22326, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  25. Sargent, Thomas J & Velde, Francois R, 1995. "Macroeconomic Features of the French Revolution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 474-518, June.
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