Paths Toward the Modern Fiscal State

Paths Toward the Modern Fiscal State

England, Japan, and China

eBook - 2013
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Harvard University Press

The rise of modern public finance revolutionized political economy. As governments learned to invest tax revenue in the long-term financial resources of the market, they vastly increased their administrative power and gained the ability to use fiscal, monetary, and financial policy to manage their economies. But why did the modern fiscal state emerge in some places and not in others? In approaching this question, Wenkai He compares the paths of three different nations—England, Japan, and China—to discover why some governments developed the tools and institutions of modern public finance, while others, facing similar circumstances, failed to do so.

Focusing on three key periods of institutional development—the decades after the English Civil Wars, the Meiji Restoration, and the Taiping Rebellion—He demonstrates how each event precipitated a collapse of the existing institutions of public finance. Facing urgent calls for revenue, each government searched for new ways to make up the shortfall. These experiments took varied forms, from new methods of taxation to new credit arrangements. Yet, while England and Japan learned from their successes and failures how to deploy the tools of modern public finance and equipped themselves to become world powers, China did not. He’s comparative historical analysis isolates the nature of the credit crisis confronting each state as the crucial factor in determining its specific trajectory. This perceptive and persuasive explanation for China’s failure at a critical moment in its history illuminates one of the most important but least understood transformations of the modern world.

Wenkai He shows why England and Japan, facing crises in public finance, developed the tools and institutions of a modern fiscal state, while China, facing similar circumstances, did not. He’s explanation for China’s failure at a critical moment illuminates one of the most important but least understood transformations of the modern world.

Book News
Curious about the birth of institutions--how they form and why they take a particular shape given the multiplicity of possibilities--He (social science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) begins with examination of credit crises in the rise of the modern fiscal state. He then studies England's path (1642-1752); Japan's rapid centralization of public finance and the emergence of the modern fiscal state (1868-1895); and China's economic disruption, and failure of public money, and persistence of fiscal decentralization (1851-1911). Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2013
ISBN: 9780674074637
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 313 pages)


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