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The early modern origins of contemporary European tax outcomes

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Michelle D'Arcy
Marina Nistotskaya
Publicerad i European Journal of Political Research
Volym 57
Nummer/häfte 1
Sidor 47-67
ISSN 0304-4130
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Quality of Government Institute (QoG)
Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
Sidor 47-67
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12214
Ämnesord state capacity; taxation; cadaster; state-building
Ämneskategorier Statsvetenskap (exklusive studier av offentlig förvaltning och globaliseringsstudier)


What explains variation in tax outcomes between European states? Previous studies emphasise the role played by political institutions, but focus mostly on the input side of politics – how access to power and policy making is structured – and the institutions of relatively recent times. It is argued in this article that output-side institutions related to the implementation of political decisions also matter and have deep institutional origins. As the classic literature has argued, the early modern period from 1450 to 1800 was formative for the development of fiscal capacity, but European states diverged in the stock of capacity they acquired. This article tests whether these differences still affect contemporary tax outcomes using a novel measure of fiscal capacity, based on the age, extent and quality of state-administered cadastral records. The empirical analysis shows that, on average, countries with higher early modern fiscal capacity have higher tax revenue today, compared to countries with lower early modern fiscal capacity. This association is robust to different model specifications and alternative measurements. The findings have important policy implications as they indicate how deeply the current fiscal problems of the continent are entrenched, but also point to what needs to be prioritised within ongoing tax reforms.

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