Thursday, August 31, 2017

Simpson on Taxation and the Medieval Origins of the Rule of Law

Hannah Katherine Simpson, who holds a JD from the Harvard Law School and a PhD in Politics from NYU and will soon start a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, has posted Justice for Sale: Political Exigency and the Development of a Legal System:
How does the rule of law develop in a country? Effective legal institutions have been hypothesized to emerge from states' long-term interests in growing tax revenue. Where political regimes are instead concerned with short-term survival or simply cannot collect regular taxes, the rule of law will remain inadequate. But because of the historical nature of this process, convincing causal evidence is scarce. I refine existing intuitions about the origins of the rule of law by arguing that, because a strong legal system can directly generate revenue and political support, politically weak regimes may have incentives to invest in legal capacity and property rights protections. Using original historical data from the dawn of the common law system in 12th century England, and leveraging the kidnapping of King Richard I in 1192 as an unusual natural experiment, I present direct causal evidence that political and fiscal exigency can motivate state investment in the provision of property rights protections, and show that in the case of the English state, these investments translated into long-term growth in legal capacity and access to justice.
See also her earlier paper, written with Sanford C. Gordon, The Birth of Pork: Local Appropriations in America's First Century:
After describing a newly assembled dataset consisting of all local appropriations made by the U.S. Congress between 1789 and 1882, we test a number of competing accounts of the politics surrounding them before offering a more nuanced, historically contingent view of the emergence of the pork barrel. First, we demonstrate that the pattern of appropriations is inconsistent with credit-claiming motivations, even accounting for the frequent rotation in office common during the period. Second, it was rare that over fifty percent of districts directly benefited from these appropriations until the 1870s, even aggregating by congressional session. Moreover, support for these appropriations was not reducible to geographic proximity, but did, until the end of Reconstruction, map cleanly onto the partisan/ideological structure of Congress. Finally, we show how the growth of recurrent expenditures and the emergence of a solid Democratic South eventually produced the universalistic coalitions commonly associated with pork-barrel spending.

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