Geography, Transparency, and Institutions

JORAM MAYSHAR, OMER MOAV, and ZVIKA NEEMAN

AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, Volume 111, Issue 3

Abstract: We propose a theory in which geographic attributes explain cross-regional institutional differences in (1) the scale of the state, (2) the distribution of power within state hierarchy, and (3) property rights to land. In this theory, geography and technology affect the transparency of farming, and transparency, in turn, affects the elite’s ability to appropriate revenue from the farming sector, thus affecting institutions. We apply the theory to explain differences between the institutions of ancient Egypt, southern Mesopotamia, and northern Mesopotamia, and also discuss its relevance to modern phenomena.