Politics has a massive impact on economic outcomes. States redistribute wealth, make up for market failures, and enact policies that can devastate an economy or promote long run growth. They also provide the essential public goods of security, the rule of law, and a means of exchange. Without these, life is brutal and trade little more than barter. But what determines the laws and regulations that states adopt and the public goods they furnish? How do states arise in the first place and gain the capacity to tax? What shapes the changes in their policies and their expenditures over time? Can we distinguish the political incentives that encourage good policies rather than tragic ones? Do the answers lie with endowments, the distribution of wealth, or deeply rooted institutions? Or are they to be sought in culture and the guiding hand of history?
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