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Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France

47 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2011 Last revised: 4 Sep 2012

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: June 21, 2012

Abstract

How is rule of law established? We address this question by exploring the causal effect of increases in fiscal capacity on the establishment of well enforced, formal, legal standards in a pre-industrial economy. Between 1550 and 1700 there were over 2,000 witch trials in France. Prosecuting a witch required a significant deviation from formal rules of evidence by local judges. Hence we exploit the significant variation across time and space in witch trials and fiscal capacity across French regions between 1550 and 1700 to show that increases in fiscal capacity caused increased adherence to the formal rule of law. As fiscal capacity increased, local judges increasingly upheld de jure rules and the frequency of witch trials declined.

Keywords: Rule of Law, Witchcraft, France, Institutions, Fiscal Capacity, Legal Capacity

JEL Classification: H1, K0, K1, N0, N43, P48

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Noel D. and Koyama, Mark, Taxes, Lawyers, and the Decline of Witch Trials in France (June 21, 2012). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 11-47. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1955222 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1955222

Noel Johnson (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~mkoyama2/About.html

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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