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The Spanish Empire and its legacy: fiscal re-distribution and political conflict in colonial and post-colonial Spanish America

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  • Grafe, Regina
  • Irigoin, Maria Alejandra

Abstract

The comparative history of the Americas has been used to identify factors determining longterm economic growth. One approach, new institutional economics (NIE), claims that the colonial origins of respective institutional structures explain North American success and Spanish American failure. Another argues that differences in resources encountered by Europeans fostered divergent levels of equality impacting on institutions and growth. This paper challenges the theoretical premises and historical evidence of both views offering a historicized, statistically and economically validated explanation for the institutional and economic development of Spanish America. First, it revises the structure of the fiscal system challenging the characterization of Spain as an absolutist ruler. Secondly, an analysis of fiscal data at regional levels assesses the performance of the Imperial state. It shows the existence of massive revenue redistribution within the colonies, disputing the notion of a predatory extractive empire based on endowments as the source of original inequality. Finally, we discuss how a contingent event, the imprisonment of the Spanish king in 1808, contributed to the disintegration of a 300-year-old empire. The crisis of legitimacy in the empire turned fiscal interdependence between regions into beggar-thy-neighbour strategies and internecine conflict. We conclude by arguing for a reversal of the causality from weak institutions causing economic failure to fiscal (and economic) failure leading to political instability.
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  • Grafe, Regina & Irigoin, Maria Alejandra, 2006. "The Spanish Empire and its legacy: fiscal re-distribution and political conflict in colonial and post-colonial Spanish America," Economic History Working Papers 22467, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22467
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    Cited by:

    1. Irigoin, Alejandra, 2016. "Representation Without Taxation, Taxation Without Consent: The Legacy Of Spanish Colonialism In America," Revista de Historia Económica / Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(2), pages 169-208, September.
    2. Irigoin, A, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North & Weingast are only right on the right half," MPRA Paper 39722, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Andres Irarrazaval, 2022. "The Fiscal Origins of Comparative Inequality levels: An Empirical and Historical Investigation," Working Papers wp531, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    4. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2010. "Latin American Growth-Inequality Trade-Offs: The Impact of Insurgence and Independence," NBER Working Papers 15680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Yolanda Blasco Martel & María Guadalupe Noriega Caldera, 2019. "Regulación y emergencia de los sistemas bancarios: Las experiencias de Espana y Latinoamérica en perspectiva histórica, 1820-1870," Tiempo y Economía, Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, vol. 6(1), pages 161-189, February.
    6. Vladimir Hlasny, 2019. "Redistributive Impacts of Fiscal Policies in Mexico: Corrections for Top Income Measurement Problems," LIS Working papers 765, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    7. Javier L. Arnaut, 2017. "Was Colonialism Fiscally Sustainable? An Empirical Examination of the Colonial Finances of Spanish America," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1703, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    8. Vinokurov, Evgeny, 2009. "EDB Eurasian Integration Yearbook 2009," MPRA Paper 20917, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Leticia Arroyo Abad & Nuno Palma, 2020. "The Fruits of El Dorado: The Global Impact of American Precious Metals," Working Papers 0179, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    10. Gareth Austin, 2008. "The 'reversal of fortune' thesis and the compression of history: Perspectives from African and comparative economic history," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 996-1027.
    11. Laura Seelkopf & Moritz Bubek & Edgars Eihmanis & Joseph Ganderson & Julian Limberg & Youssef Mnaili & Paula Zuluaga & Philipp Genschel, 2021. "The rise of modern taxation: A new comprehensive dataset of tax introductions worldwide," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 239-263, January.
    12. Federico, Giovanni & Tena Junguito, Antonio, 2017. "Exports and American divergence. Lost decades and Emancipation collapse in Latin American and the Caribbean 1820-1870," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 24208, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    13. Maria Alejandra Irigoin, 2009. "Gresham on horseback: the monetary roots of Spanish American political fragmentation in the nineteenth century1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(3), pages 551-575, August.
    14. Irigoin, Maria Alejandra & Grafe, Regina, 2012. "Bounded Leviathan: or why North and Weingast are only right on the right half," Economic History Working Papers 44492, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    15. Roberto Bonfatti, 2008. "Decolonization: the Role of Changing World Factor Endowments," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 001, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    16. Natividad, Gabriel, 2019. "Stunted firms: The long-term impacts of colonial taxation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(3), pages 525-548.
    17. Francis, Joseph A., 2014. "Resolving the Halperín Paradox: The Terms of Trade and Argentina’s Expansion in the Long Nineteenth Century," MPRA Paper 57915, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Rok Spruk & Mitja Kovac, 2020. "Persistent Effects of Colonial Institutions on Long‐Run Development: Local Evidence from Regression Discontinuity Design in Argentina," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 17(4), pages 820-861, December.
    19. María Fernanda Justiniano & María Elina Tejerina, 2020. "Ecos eurocéntricos en la historia económica regional latinoamericana. El caso de los estudios históricos del norte de Argentina en tiempos de independencia," Ensayos de Economía 018313, Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • B1 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925

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