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Bounded Leviathan: or why North and Weingast are only right on the right half

Irigoin, Maria Alejandra and Grafe, Regina (2012) Bounded Leviathan: or why North and Weingast are only right on the right half. Economic history working papers, 164/12. The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Abstract

The great merit of North’s and Weingast’s insight into the importance of a ruler’s credible commitment to protecting property rights is that it is both parsimonious and it lends itself beautifully to generalizations. It has e.g. inspired the economic literature on the importance of legal origins” (LaPorta et al., 1998, 2008), which seemed to vindicate the notion that post-Glorious Revolution English institutions were particularly conducive to economic growth. More recently economists have acknowledged that growth in fact depends on state capacity. This encompasses not only investor protection (legal capacity) but also the ability of the state to finance itself, fiscal capacity. (Besley and Persson, 2009, 2010) show that the protection of private property rights and that of public property rights to taxation are linked and most likely co-evolutionary. However, the precise relation between the two is anything but clear. This paper argues that North’s and Weingast’s models one-sided focus on state coercion that threatened subject’ property rights has obscured the relation between coercion used in revenue collection and total revenue role of fiscal capacity. We suggest a very simple model to show that this relationship between state fiscal capacity and legal capacity is not linear, especially in the phase of nation state building. Before 1800 states faced one of two very different central challenges. 1) States that already exhibited high levels of coercion had to try to keep in check the ruler’s potential for predation as North and Weingast argued. 2) States that used very low levels of coercion faced a coordination problem instead of a predation issue. The case of Spain provides empirical evidence for the existence of states where an increase in coercion would have improved fiscal capacity, but high levels of legal capacity paradoxically prevented the ruler from adopting this path. Finally, we use financial market developments to show the serious welfare implications that resulted from such a lack of coordination and integration.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/home.aspx
Additional Information: © 2012 The Authors
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Journal of Economic Literature Classification System: N - Economic History > N1 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Growth and Fluctuations > N10 - General, International, or Comparative
N - Economic History > N2 - Financial Markets and Institutions > N20 - General, International, or Comparative
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Collections > Economists Online
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Identification Number: 164/12
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2012 10:11
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/44492/

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