Representation without Taxation, Taxation without Consent: The Legacy of Spanish Colonialism in America

ALEJANDRA IRIGOIN
REVISTA DE HISTORIA ECONÓMICA / JOURNAL OF IBERIAN AND LATIN AMERICAN ECONOMIC HISTORY, 34.2 (2016): 369-381

Abstract: The essay examines Spain’s colonial legacy in the long-run development of Spanish America. It surveys the fiscal and constitutional outcomes of independence and assesses the relative burden imposed by colonialism. Constitutional asymmetries between revenue collecting and spending agents constrained de facto governments’ power to tax. Inherent disparities embedded in the colonial fiscal system worsened with vaguely defined representation for subjects and territories and vexed their aggregation into a modern representative polity. Governments with limited fiscal capacity failed to deliver public goods and to distribute the costs and benefits of independence equitably. Growing indirect taxes, debt and money creation allowed them to transfer the fiscal burden to other constituents or future generations. Taxpayers became aware of the asymmetry between private contributions and public goods and hence favoured a low but regressive taxation. Comparisons with trajectories in the metropolis and the United States are offered to qualify this legacy.