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Rich Elites, Poor Kings: Rebellion Relief and the Ratchet Effect in Taxation

Branislav L. Slantchev, UC San Diego
Oct 31, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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We present a two-period model in which a ruler interacts with citizens whose income he cannot observe directly but whose wealth affect the probability of victory in case of rebellion. The ruler attempts to extract wealth by setting a tax rate to whose maintenance he cannot commit and which the citizens can elect to pay or challenge by revolting. The ruler’s subsequent information about their wealth is therefore affected by their strategic choice and by the outcome of rebellion if one occurs. In an extension we study the problem in the shadow of an impending war. The model exhibits several dynamics that correspond to observed empirical patterns. First, most tax rebellions occur at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder: it is peasants rather than elites that tend to revolt. Second, even when society is relatively wealthy, the ruler might be unable to extract a lot of resources. Third, his ability to tax can increase in war and might never return to the lower pre-war levels. Fourth, rebellion is often “rewarded” by lowering the tax whereas compliance might be penalized by increasing it.

Slantchev studies military coercion, intrawar negotiations, the conduct of war, and war termination. His articles appear in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, and Security Studies, among others.  His book, Military Threats: The Costs of Coercion and the Price of Peace, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation. Slantchev teaches courses in international relations, national security, and game theory.

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