France's Slow Transition from Privatized to Government-Administered Tax Collection: Tax Farming in the Eighteenth Century
The establishment of a centralized government bureaucracy to collect taxes is regarded as one of the essential features of a modern economy. Britain has long been regarded as a pioneer, creating an efficient tax-collecting bureaucracy over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On the other hand, France has been regarded as a laggard, continuing to rely heavily on tax farming. Focusing on the largest of the tax farms, the French Crown's slow transition from privatized tax collection to government administered tax collection is explained as a consequence of its inability to adequately monitor employees and absorb the risk of fluctuating revenues and absence of ready access to the capital markets. Consequently, the French Crown failed to capture significant tax revenues as it headed into a fiscal crisis at the end of the eighteenth century.
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