The Hobbesian Bargain: State-Building, Fiscal Capacity, and Preferences for Redistribution in Fragile States (with James D. Long)

What explains citizens’ preferences for redistribution in fragile states? This article examines fiscal capacity in the context of modern state-building in the developing world. Citizens in weak states face numerous barriers articulating redistributive demands to the state and confront non-state actors that provide alternative governance. We argue that as governments struggle to supply their end of a “Hobbesian bargain” by establishing political authority and legitimacy, citizens’ experiences with formal state institutions importantly shapes demands of government. We hypothesize that individuals who perceive the state as the legitimate provider of rule and law and public services are more likely to support redistribution. Further, individuals who gain greater political inclusion in the new regime demonstrate less willingness for policy action, while forms of quasi-voluntary compliance and individuals’ risk aversion mediate preferences. We test hypotheses using nation-wide novel survey data from Afghanistan, which provides a critical juncture to leverage variation in institutional quality and citizens’ perceptions of the state. Tests and robustness checks provide supportive evidence for hypotheses, and contributions to theory and policy domains focused on the institutional components of state-building and economic development.

State Infrastructural Power, Informational Capacity, and the Political Centralization of National Education Systems

Why do some national education systems consolidate as centralized, state-led institutions while others consolidate as decentralized institutions with dispersed political authority? This article examines the historical origins of national education systems and theorizes that the territorial distribution of infrastructural power matters more for educational development than overall levels of state capacity (e.g. military size or tax collection). Rather, the central state’s ability to collect and disseminate detailed population data throughout the national territory is an important predictor of education centralization. Ruling elites value centrally-governed mass education as a means to legitimate their authority, but face constraints in pursuit of its development. The even distribution of informational capacity and complementary infrastructure, such as transit and communication routes, allows elites to impose new institutions further and further from the political center. The more enumerative capabilities the central state exert throughout its territory, the more likely it is to monopolize education at the national level over time. To test the effects of state infrastructural power, this paper introduces a composite measure of centralized education based on an original historical dataset of educational reforms in forty-five countries from 1800 to 1970. Controlling for potential confounders such as regime type and economic modernization, and holding state capacity constant, the results provide strong supportive evidence of the relationship between education centralization and the distribution of infrastructural power—specifically, the administration of comprehensive national censuses.