Suffrage, labour markets and coalitions in colonial Virginia



Abstract: We study Virginia’s suffrage from the early-17th century until the American Revolution using an analytical narrative and econometric analysis of unique data on franchise restrictions. First, we hold that suffrage changes reflected labour market dynamics. Indeed, Virginia’s liberal institutions initially served to attract indentured servants from England who were needed in the labour-intensive tobacco farming but deteriorated once worker demand subsided and planters replaced white workers with slaves. Second, we argue that Virginia’s suffrage was also the result of political bargaining influenced by shifting societal coalitions. We show that new politically influential coalitions of freemen and then of small and large slave-holding farmers emerged in the second half of the 17th and early-18th centuries, respectively. These coalitions were instrumental in reversing the earlier democratic institution\s. Our main contribution stems from integrating the labour markets and bargaining/coalitions arguments, thus proving a novel theoretical and empirical explanation for institutional change.

A model of the beginnings of coinage in antiquity



Abstract: There have been important advances by archeologists and numismatists in recent decades in the study of the beginnings of coinage in Ionia, Lydia, and Greece before the fifth century B.C. This paper provides a model of the birth of coinage that brings these advances into a broad analysis of the subject-matter. It pulls together many factors that are often treated separately. In addition, the model yields one important new result. Contrary to popular assumption, early coinage was not highly profitable. The Lydian government and the Greek city-states provided an extremely wide array of denominations of coins in a single precious metal at considerable cost. Their willingness to bear this cost must have reflected a political strategy of promoting coinage. Such a political strategy would also be easy to explain. As a large payer and recipient of money in the form of precious metals, the government had much to gain from the spread of coinage in order to economize on transaction costs in its own affairs.

Classical Liberalism in Italian Economic Thought, from the Time of Unification


ECON JOURNAL WATCH, Volume 14, Issue 1

Abstract: Although classical liberalism has not had a profound impact on political institutions in Italy since its unification in the 1860s, the country had a vibrant classical liberal tradition, especially among economists. The Italian scuola di scienza delle finanze played a key role in anticipating the approach later identified with public choice economics, and accordingly it was highly valued and appraised by James M. Buchanan. While many Italian classical liberal thinkers, both in the 19th and in the 20th century, are still by and large ignored outside the boundaries of Italy, several have had an important impact on the ideas of liberals around the world. This paper summarizes the development of classical liberalism in Italy since the 1860s, focusing on liberal economists who took part in public debate. Political realism has been a unifying feature of the Italian liberal tradition, including a strong skepticism toward ‘industrial policy,’ as top-down industrial development has been promoted by government ever since unification. This paper broadly outlines the key thinkers in this tradition: Francesco Ferrara, Vilfredo Pareto, Luigi Einaudi, Bruno Leoni, and Sergio Ricossa.

Financial Property Rights Under Colonialism: Some Counterfactual Possibilities


JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp. 797-824

Abstract: This article seeks to explain the lack of the development of contemporaneously ‘modern’ money and credit markets in the 18th to 19th century economy of India. Borrowing from the literature on property rights, it demonstrates that the emergence of ‘modern’, and state-connected money markets was the result of a certain kind of power relationship between rulers and financial capital holders where the two were forced to mutually cooperate; financial systems represented the institutionalization of this mutual cooperation. Specific kinds of ‘colonialism’ represent just one special case of a relationship where the latter did not obtain. The article thus proposes a mechanism though which the spread of European capital could have retarded financial market formation in now-developing areas with otherwise considerable concentration of ‘native’ mercantile capital.

The Impact of Holy Land Crusades on State Formation: War Mobilization, Trade Integration, and Political Development in Medieval Europe


Abstract: Holy Land Crusades were among the most significant forms of military mobilization to occur during the medieval period. Crusader mobilization had important implications for European state formation. We find that areas with large numbers of Holy Land crusaders witnessed increased political stability and institutional development as well as greater urbanization associated with rising trade and capital accumulation, even after taking into account underlying levels of religiosity and economic development. Our findings contribute to a scholarly debate regarding when the essential elements of the modern state first began to appear. Although our causal mechanisms—which focus on the importance of war preparation and urban capital accumulation—resemble those emphasized by previous research, we date the point of critical transition to statehood centuries earlier, in line with scholars who emphasize the medieval origins of the modern state. We also point to one avenue by which the rise of Muslim military and political power may have affected European institutional development.

Two Concepts of Religious Liberty: The Natural Rights and Moral Autonomy Approaches to the Free Exercise of Religion


Abstract: Due in part to the influence of Michael McConnell, free exercise exemptionism is generally thought to be compatible with, if not dictated by, the founders’ church-state political philosophy. This article rejects that position, arguing instead that America’s constitutional tradition offers two distinct conceptions of religious liberty: the founders’ natural rights free exercise and modern moral autonomy exemptionism. The article aims to distinguish these two approaches by clarifying how they are grounded upon divergent philosophical understandings of human freedom and by explaining how they advance different views of what religious liberty is, how it is threatened, and, accordingly, how it is best protected. The article also attempts to demonstrate how our modern approach expands the protection for religious liberty in some ways but limits it in others.

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


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.