The Comparative Political Economy of Taxation (with Philipp Genschel)

The modern state is a ‘tax state’ (Schumpeter 1917). The level and structure of tax revenue determines what a government can and cannot do, how many civil servants it can hire, how many services it can deliver, how modestly or ambitiously it can define its goals, and how effectively it can constitute its authority domestically and internationally. The level and structure of taxation also shapes the society the government governs. It determines who has to pay for the state and who not, who gains and who loses, who is empowered and who is disempowered. Our (immodestly ambitious) goal is to write a monograph analysing the diffusion and transformation of the modern state through the lens of taxation. The core of the book will be an attempt to map and explain fundamental differences in the structures and developmental pathways of national tax systems for a global sample of Western and Non-Western states since the 19th century. The data collection is funded by the EUI Research Council (starting January 2016).

Social Policy by Other Means (with Peter Starke)

Life can be “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes 1651). To insure their citizens against the hardships of life, Western European governments have since the 19th century introduced social policies such as health insurance or pensions that constitute the core of what we now understand as the modern welfare state. The strong focus on these particular policies has served comparative welfare state research well in analyzing the reduction of life risks in advanced democracies over the last century. Yet, increasingly, this focus is too narrow. There is a strong need to discuss new policies within and outside developed democracies, as well as historical and contemporary forms of non-state welfare provision. To do so, we have organized two workshops bringing scholars working in and on different countries, different policy areas, and different time periods together. The first workshop took place at the ECPR joint sessions in Warsaw in March/April 2015. The second one was sponsored by the University of Southern Denmark and transpired in January 2016. The contributions are currently under review for a special issue at the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis.

Tax and Welfare States beyond the OECD (with Hanna Lierse and Carina Schmitt)

The major share of the public and academic debate on redistribution is directed towards the level and composition of the tax and welfare state in advanced Western democracies. From a global perspective this emphasis seems rather misplaced. It diverts attention from the greater number of the global population persisting under more deprived conditions. 85 percent of the world’s population lives outside the OECD and more than 20 percent of the population in low and middle income countries have an income below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. The UN estimates that developing countries need to raise at least 20 percent of GDP as revenue to finance the Millennium Development Goals and alleviate poverty. So far, half of Sub-Saharan countries fall short of it as do many other poorer nations in Asia and Latin America. We have organized two workshops with internationally leading scholars to discuss these issues (Bremen, September 2013 and August 2014). From these workshops result two special issues. One on “Social Protection in the Developing World: Challenges, Continuity and Change” has been published in Politics & Society. The other one on “Revenue Mobilization in the Developing World: Changes, Challenges, and Chances” appeared in the Review of International Political Economy.

The Tax State and International Tax Policies (with Philipp Genschel, Hanna Lierse, Henning Schmidtke, Stefan Traub, and Hongyan Yang)

Taxation is an exclusive province of the nation state. No entity beyond the state has taxing power. Yet, national tax policy choices are shaped by various international factors. On the one hand, intergovernmental treaties and organizations regulate the ways and means of national taxation. On the other hand, national taxation is shaped by the cross-border mobility of tax bases such as, most prominently, real, financial and human capital. In our research group we explored the interplay of international and national factors on tax policy and the effects of changes in tax systems on redistribution and inequality. An overview of our findings can be seen here (in German).
The project was part of the collaborative research center 597 on Transformations of the State, where scholars in political science, law, sociology, economics, and communication studies worked together to determine if, and precisely how, pressure from globalization and liberalization over the past thirty years have changed the core institutions and functions that define the classical nation state. While numerous books, articles, and chapters have been published, some of the key findings can be found in the Oxford Handbook of Transformations of the State.