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Econ Seminar: Tommaso Giommoni (ETH Zurich)

Taxation with a Grain of Salt: the Long-Term Effects of Fiscal Policy on Local Development

This paper studies the long-term effect of taxation on economic geography and development. We rely on a unique natural experiment in place during France’s ancien régime: the salt tax. Introduced in the late 13th century and abrogated by the French Revolution in 1789, the salt tax was not uniformly levied across the French kingdom as its rate varied discontinuously in space. Using a series of rich and original historical data at regular time intervals and very fine spatial resolution since the fifteen century, we estimate a Spatial RDD model. We find that these exogenous tax rate differentials have had large effects on economic geography and development. These effects are, then, confirmed in a DiD analysis, that studies a very large time span (1400-1900 using regular intervals of 25 years) and documents the absence of pre-trends. Most of the effects can still be observed today in population density, firm density, and local average income. We revisit the classical object reallocation problem under strict preferences. When attention is constrained to the set of Pareto-efficient rules, it is known that top trading cycles (TTC) is the only rule that is strategyproof and individually-rational. We relax this constraint and consider pair-efficiency. A rule is pair-efficient if it never induces an allocation at which a pair of agents gain from trading their assigned objects. Remarkably, even in the larger set of pair-efficient rules, we find that TTC is still the only rule that is strategyproof and individually-rational. Our characterization result gives strong support to the use of TTC in object reallocation problems.

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