47 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2011 Last revised: 4 Sep 2012
Date Written: June 21, 2012
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: 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