Medieval European Traditions in Representation and State Capacity Today

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Rich economies are characterized by the coincidence of, on the one hand, high state capacity and, on the other, well-functioning markets and the rule of law. They have states that are powerful and centralized and yet also limited. Furthermore, relatively low rates of shadow economic activity and tax evasion suggest that citizens perceive their states’ limitations to be credible. This suggests that a state’s ability to be credibly limited may facilitate its investments in state capacity. Consistent with this, we explore the potential link between historical traditions of representative governance institutions and state capacity today. We report that medieval and early-modern representative assembly experiences positively correlate with higher tax revenues, smaller shadow economies, greater state control of violence and yet fewer state resources dedicated to violence. Relative to tax revenues, the evidence regarding shadow economies and violence is more robust to various controls and sa
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-186
JournalEconomics of Governance
StatePublished - Mar 2020


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