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Sons of Something: Taxes, Lawsuits and Local Political Control in Sixteenth Century Castile

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  • Mauricio Drelichman

    (University of British Columbia)

Abstract

The widespread ennoblement of the Spanish bourgeoisie in the sixteenth century has been traditionally considered one of the main causes of Iberian decline. I document and quantify the surge in ennoblement through a new time series of nobility cases preserved in the Archive of the Royal Chancery Court of Valladolid and use the insights provided by lawsuits from several localities to model the rent seeking mechanisms at work in a game theoretical framework. I then validate the game against the data and use it to draw inferences about the unobserved redistributive activity in local politics. Contrary to established scholarship, I find that: 1) the tax exemptions granted to nobles cannot alone explain the flight to privilege, since ennoblement was more costly than the present value of the future tax benefits; 2) the central motivation behind ennoblement was to gain control of local governments and acquire decision-making power over common resources; 3) while ennoblement reflected a high level of redistributive activity, there is no evidence in the archival record linking it to the stagnation and decline of Spain.

Suggested Citation

  • Mauricio Drelichman, 2005. "Sons of Something: Taxes, Lawsuits and Local Political Control in Sixteenth Century Castile," Economic History 0508004, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpeh:0508004
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 41
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1991. "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 503-530.
    2. Philip R. Lane & Aaron Tornell, 1999. "The Voracity Effect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 22-46, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2009. "License to till: The privileges of the Spanish Mesta as a case of second-best institutions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 220-240, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    rent seeking; nobility; local government; litigation; redistribution; institutions; institutional analysis; empirical method; game theory; Castile; Spain;

    JEL classification:

    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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