Friday, January 25, 2008

How to build a state

This blogger has just received a copy of Taxation and State-Building in Developing Countries: Capacity and Consent, an important new book edited by Deborah BraĆ¼tigam, Odd-Helge Fjeldstad and Mick Moore.

The book (and its editors) come highly recommended. The first couple of pages, introducing the book, clearly resonate with what we have written about before. Here are a few excerpts.

Taxation is the new frontier for those concerned with state-building in developing countries.

The political importance of taxation extends beyond the raising of revenue. We argue in this book that taxation may play the
central (their emphasis) role in building and sustaining the power of states, and shaping their ties to society. The state-building role of taxation can be seen in two principal areas: the rise of a social contract based on bargaining around tax, and the institution-building stimulus provided by the revenue imperative. Progress in the first area may foster representative democracy. Progress in the second area strengthens state capacity. Both have the potential to bolster the legitimacy of the state and enhance accountability between the state and its citizens.

Quite. Democracy is all about bargaining over resources: how they are raised, and how they are spent. We also like this next excerpt: for it identifies something that has been puzzling us too.

This idea is largely missing from the new scholarship on state-building. It is also largely missing from the practical concerns of those working in the aid community. The lack of attention to the relationship between revenue-raising and governance is surprising, especially given the long-standing linkage between taxation and governance assumed by students of European and American history.

The huge role tax plays in fostering better government is perhaps one of those things that is obvious enough once you see it, but easy to ignore if your attention has not been drawn to it. TJN sees this as one of its core goals: to draw people's attention to issues like these ones. (update: an important tax conference appears to be imminent in South Africa. We would like to think that delegates will have read this book before they arrive.)

This blogger must now confess that he has only read the first few pages of this book so far. More on this later.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Such a great article which
The political importance of taxation extends beyond the raising of revenue. We argue in this book that taxation may play the central (their emphasis) role in building and sustaining the power of states, and shaping their ties to society. The state-building role of taxation can be seen in two principal areas: the rise of a social contract based on bargaining around tax, and the institution-building stimulus provided by the revenue imperative.Thanks for sharing this article.

9:14 am  

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