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Published June 2015 | public
Journal Article

What Do States Do? Politics and Economic History

Abstract

Although politics has a huge effect on economic outcomes, we still know too little about what public goods states furnish or what determines the laws, regulations, and policies that states adopt. Worse yet, we do not really understand how states arise in the first place and how they gain the ability to tax. There are numerous unanswered questions here that economic historians can profitably work on, and their research will be particularly valuable if they model the politics, gather data on taxation and spending by local and central governments, and pay serious attention to the historical details and to political behavior that may not involve optimization.

Additional Information

© 2015 Economic History Association. The author would like to thank the editors, Jonathan Chapman, Tracy Dennison, Rod Kiewiet, Morgan Kousser, Ed McCaffery, Kate Norberg, Gilles Postel-Vinay, and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal for suggestions and criticisms. The author also benefitted from the advice generously given by the late Ross Thompson. Research for this project was supported by NSF grant SES-1227237.

Additional details

Created:
August 20, 2023
Modified:
October 23, 2023