War and taxation: When does patriotism overcome the free-rider impulse?

Naomi Feldman, Joel Slemrod

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The history of the state is closely entwined with war. For example, Mann (1980: 197) estimates that between 1130 and 1815, the English state spent somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of its financial resources on the acquisition and use of military force. Today, although the nonmilitary responsibilities of governments have vastly expanded, war making and national defense remain a central responsibility of most governments. That military activities use resources is well known. What has been less studied is the extent to which popular wars may build social identity and thereby reduce the cost of government mobilization of resources and the extent to which unpopular wars may do the opposite. This chapter explores the relationship between citizens' willingness to comply voluntarily with tax obligations and the perceived military threat to a country, as well as the relationship between citizens' willingness to comply and their attitudes toward ongoing military action. To the extent that military threats lead individuals to identify with their government, society, and country, the tax authority can reduce enforcement efforts because the citizens' willingness to voluntarily comply acts as a substitute for the threat of detection and penalties. Taxpayer consent to taxation at a particular moment would therefore be due, in part, to the accumulation of conflicts and their nature over time. As Eisaku Ide and Sven Steinmo argue in Chapter 7, taxpayer consent hinges in part on those aspects of a nation's history that determine the collective willingness to sacrifice.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe New Fiscal Sociology Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780511627071
ISBN (Print)9780521494274
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2009 and 2010.


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