Presentation Title
Taxation and Governance by Armed Groups
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Gibson Hall S296

Vassar College


Why do rebels engage in taxation? I argue that the economic instrumentalism that underlines most studies is inadequate for understanding the logic of rebel taxation. I review several recent studies of rebel taxation and show that authors often draw on an Olsonian logic of taxation while largely ignoring its political valences. Studies of rebel taxation would benefit from a closer understanding of the literatures on rebel governance as well as on studies of state taxation practices, many of which provide insights into the non-economic motivations for taxation that commonly elude analyses of rebel behavior. Building from these literatures, I introduce several potential non-economic logics for rebel taxation. Some of these have no direct economic benefit while others are secondary to the economic rational. I illustrate these dynamics drawing on examples from recent conflicts. I conclude that rebel taxation should be understood as a political act, potentially even more so than its immediate economic purpose.