Co-taught by Professors Kenneth Shepsle and Jeffry Frieden, the Research Workshop in Political Economy (Government 3007) is a year-long graduate seminar that aims to encourage cross-disciplinary research and excellence in graduate training. Political economy is a research tradition that explores how institutions affect political and economic outcomes. The workshop emphasizes the development of dissertation proposals and is a place where graduate students can present their research to an audience of committed and informed peers. It is open to graduate students in the Departments of Government and Economics, and the Program in Political Economy and Government. The workshop holds both internal and public seminars and meetings. At the internal meetings, approximately twelve per semester, graduate students and faculty present their own work to one another. At the public meetings, up to two per semester, leading scholars are invited to Harvard to present their work. Although the workshop is by invitation only, affiliates of the Weatherhead Center are encouraged to attend the public meetings.
Jonathan Weigel will present his paper "Building State and Citizen: Experimental Evidence from a Tax Campaign in Congo."
Then, Shelley Liu will present her paper “Resistance and Control: Statebuilding through Rebel-Civilian Relations”. Eduardo Montero will be the discussant.
Abstract for “Building State and Citizen: Experimental Evidence from a Tax Campaign in Congo”
This project studies the first citywide property tax campaign in Kananga, D.R. Congo. Neighborhoods are randomly assigned to receive the door-to-door collection program, or to remain in the old system in which tax payment is near zero. The program increases average tax compliance by 10-14 percentage points. This random variation in tax payment is used to test the hypothesis that expanding the tax base causes citizens to exert greater effort in seeking to monitor and have a voice in the government. Intent-to-treat results indicate that citizens in taxed neighborhoods are on average about 3 percentage points more likely to engage in costly participation, including attendance at townhall meetings hosted by the provincial government and submission of suggestion cards for the government in downtown Kananga. This is a 20-30% increase on the control group mean; corresponding IV estimates of the local average treatment effect on individuals who pay the tax because of the program are considerably larger. However, the program also appears on average to crowd out other forms of engagement with the state, such as participation in local public goods and efforts to enter the formal sector. IV estimates suggest that these countervailing results are explained by the difference between the direct effects of the program and the effects of tax payment specifically. Tax compliers are more likely to participate across multiple measures, consistent with the taxation-accountability hypothesis. But absent tax payment, sending tax collectors door to door appears to cause households to withdraw from the government, consistent with theories of bottom-up resistance to state building.
Abstract for “Resistance and Control: Statebuilding through Rebel-Civilian Relations”
Why are some armed groups successful at building pro-government institutions and keeping the peace after war, while others are not? According to theories of state centralization and civil war, weak states are susceptible to internal conflict because they cannot project their power into rural areas. To circumvent this problem after civil war, the new government can only be successful in maintaining peace if it has successfully built extensive inclusive and pro-government institutions that extend into the countryside. I argue that war-making presents a unique opportunity to rebuild institutions that are not amenable to state. As such, pro-government institutions succeed only if they take advantage of this opportunity by leveraging relationships with civilians that were formed during the war. During civil conflict, armed groups take over territory and interact with civilians using varying levels of coercion. These interactions result in either formalized relationships, which indicate long-term and mutually-beneficial ties, or ad-hoc relationships, where ties are severed after the immediate purpose of the interaction is fulfilled. In my prospectus, I aim to use both qualitative and quantitative evidence from the two periods of civil war in Liberia and Zimbabwe to show that armed groups can build pro-government institutions after the war only if they maintain formalized and cooperative relationships with civilians during the war. These wartime relationships must cover both bureaucratic roles, where civilians are entrusted with local administration, as well as security roles, where civilians are organized into local vigilante teams and engaged as spies for the state.