New article in EEPS: State Building and Tax Policy
I'm excited to announce that my new article has been published in East European Politics and Societies.
This piece explores the massive tax reform that Poland underwent in 1924-1925, and follows its aftereffects. I framed this reform in terms of the growth of state power, since – at that time Poland – was still a relatively new state rising out of the end of World War I.
It's quite difficult to write about government policies and how they might affect people's everyday lives. On the whole, we can talk about macro-issues in a general sense, but it's nearly impossible to pinpoint the interaction between state and citizen on the individual level. That's because there aren't any sources to look at, historically, for the times when things are working. If a policy functions just fine, then all we can do is assume that things operate as intended. However, if a policy is controversial, then we can look at those moments of conflict as a gateway into the state-society relationship.
For this reason, my article is focused on the strife that arose out of the tax reform. There were many groups that were not happy with a rise in taxes, as we may well understand. But one group in particular, Jewish merchants, seemed to bear the brunt of the new tax burden and they began to point out the inequities of the new system.
The article therefore shows the functioning of the state through these moments of disagreement, rather than trying to locate how it actually operated on a macro-level. For that aspect, we can simply look at the statistics.
My conclusions are essentially that the tax reform leads to a massive expansion of state power at this time. But this does not come cheaply and is not implemented perfectly. Perceived or real injustice in the system hurt tax compliance and revenues remained too low. It would take some time before the country's populace accepted the new policies and bought into them.
For more information on the Polish tax system generally, I wrote about it already here on the blog.