Legal Centralization and the Birth of the Secular State

35 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012 Last revised: 2 Aug 2013

See all articles by Noel D. Johnson

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: July 26, 2013

Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between the historical process of legal centralization and increased religious toleration by the state. We develop a model in which legal centralization leads to the criminalization of the religious beliefs of a large proportion of the population. This process initially leads to increased persecution, but, because these persecutions are costly, it eventually causes the state to broaden the standards of ortho- dox belief and move toward religious toleration. We compare the results of the model with historical evidence drawn from two important cases in which religious diversity and state centralization collided in France: the Albigensian crusades of the thirteenth century and the rise of Protestant belief in the sixteenth century. Both instances support our central claim that the secularization of western European state institutions during the early-modern period was driven by the costs of imposing a common set of legal standards on religiously diverse populations.

Keywords: State Capacity, Religion, Secularization, Heresy, Legal Capacity, France

JEL Classification: H10, N43, Z12, K42, P48

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Noel D. and Koyama, Mark, Legal Centralization and the Birth of the Secular State (July 26, 2013). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 12-48. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2134455 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2134455

Noel D. Johnson

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 (Contact Author)

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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