Taxation and Voting Rights in Medieval England and France
Rationality and Society, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 473-508, 2002
Posted: 29 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2002
We explore the relationship between voting rights and taxation in medieval England and France. We hypothesize that voting was a wealth-enhancing institution formed by the ruler in order to facilitate profitable joint projects with subjects. We predict when voting rights and tax payments will be linked to each other, as well as to the projects inducing them, and when they will become separated. We classify taxes into three types: customary, consensual and arbitrary. Customary taxes that did not require voting were dominant in both countries in the early medieval period. These payments, fixed for specific purposes, were not well suited for funding new, large-scale projects. Consensual taxation, in which voting rights and tax payments were tightly linked, was used to finance new, large-scale collective projects in both England and France. Strong rule-of-law institutions are necessary to produce such taxes. In England, where security of rule remained high, the relationship between tax payments and voting rights was maintained. In France, an increase in the insecurity of rule, and the accompanying weakening of voting institutions, produced a shift to arbitrary taxation and a disjunction between tax payments and voting rights. These observations, as well as many of the details we consider, are substantially in conformity with the predictions of our model.
Keywords: medieval history, taxation, voting
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