Macrohistory Seminar – Fabian Wahl (University of Hohenheim) You Reap What You Know: Origins and Dynamics of State Capacity

Event details

  • Thursday, November 15
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

You Reap What You Know: Origins and Dynamics of State Capacity

Geography provided some states with better ability to tax their subjects than others. To test this idea empirically, we propose a geographic index of information costs, caloric observability, to understand if a more complicated geography prohibited states to tax effectively. We trace the history of hundreds of states in the Holy Roman Empire for over 500 years, link it to our index, and find that states with a geography more favorable for taxation were financially more stable, geographically larger, and survived longer. Our mechanism explains states’ capacity until the 16th century, and is replaced thereafter.

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