NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Why Not Taxation and Representation? A Note on the American Revolution

Sebastian Galiani, Gustavo Torrens

NBER Working Paper No. 22724
Issued in October 2016, Revised in January 2018
NBER Program(s):Development Economics

Why did the most prosperous colonies in the British Empire mount a rebellion? Even more puzzling, why didn’t the British agree to have American representation in Parliament and quickly settle the dispute peacefully? At first glance, it would appear that a deal could have been reached to share the costs of the global public goods provided by the Empire in exchange for more political autonomy and/or formal representation for the colonies. (At least, this was the view of men of the time such as Lord Chapman, Thomas Pownall and Adam Smith.) We argue, however, that the incumbent government in Great Britain, controlled by the landed gentry, feared that giving political concessions to the colonies would undermine the position of the dominant coalition, strengthen the incipient democratic movement, and intensify social pressures for the reform of a political system based on land ownership. In particular, allowing Americans to be represented in Parliament was problematic because American elites could not credibly commit to refuse to form a coalition with the British opposition. Consequently, the only realistic options were to maintain the original colonial status or fight a full-scale war of independence.

download in pdf format
   (307 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the December 2016 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22724

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Di Maggio, Kermani, and Palmer w22638 How Quantitative Easing Works: Evidence on the Refinancing Channel
Katz and Krueger w22667 The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015
Blattman and Miguel w14801 Civil War
Gompers, Gornall, Kaplan, and Strebulaev w22587 How Do Venture Capitalists Make Decisions?
Falato and Scharfstein w22689 The Stock Market and Bank Risk-Taking
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us