State capacity and economic development: Causal mechanism or correlative filter?
Vincent Geloso and
Alexander W. Salter
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2020, vol. 170, issue C, 372-385
In this paper, we explore why there are no examples of societies with low state capacity and high economic development. We argue that such an outcome is unlikely because of the nature of investments in state capacity. Societies that become rich in the absence of a strong state invite predation by societies that develop such states. Thus societies invest in state capacity, in part, to plunder other societies’ wealth. Those investments are a form of rent-seeking. Potentially preyed-upon societies are forced to invest in state capacity in turn so as to deter potential attackers. This entails that as soon as a rent seeker enters the game, the likelihood of a low-capacity, high-development society surviving falls. This explains the historical lack of such societies. We thus interpret state capacity not as a causal condition for widespread economic prosperity, but a survivability condition for enjoying this prosperity.
Keywords: State capacity; Economic development; Public Goods (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B53 D72 L51 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:170:y:2020:i:c:p:372-385
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