Jakob Frizell

European University Institute

Jakob Frizell

Making the Rich Pay for the War: The politics of fiscal fairness in post-conflict countries

War typically generates destruction and misery for the many, but also profits for the few. In the first half of the 20th century, this pattern of unequal burdens prompted the implementation of radical redistributive reforms, whereby the rich were heavily taxed in order to pay for reconstruction and provisions of basic services for those most in need. Yet while modern post-conflict countries experience similar patterns of inequality and impoverishment, redistributive policies are generally assumed to be a thing of the past. The ostensible absence of reform is arguably not only puzzling, but unfortunate in term of justice and ominous for the prospects of economic development and sustainable peace. 

The project therefore aims to explain to what extent and under which circumstances modern armed conflicts spur the implementation of redistributive economic policies, and conversely, when it fails to do so. The study has a global scope, and while focusing on the period between 1946 and 2016, it will additionally stretch further back in time in order to discern historical trends.

Given the lack of systematic research on the issue, the first task is simply to generate an overview of the degree to which redistributive policies are in fact implemented in connection with modern armed conflicts. It will do so primarily using quantitative data on introduction of new taxes and changes in their progressivity. Additionally, land redistribution and reparations programmes during and after conflict will be mapped. Provisional results indicate that while the connection is less apparent with regard to modern conflicts, they too tend to be correlated with redistributive policies.

Second, and most importantly, the project aims to explain the variation in redistributive policies between different conflict-affected countries, using both econometric analysis and in-depth case studies. Drawing largely on the literature of fiscal sociology, it is posited that domestic elite resistance constitutes a fundamental factor in this regard. It is further hypothesised that the intensity of the conflict, degree of international involvement, mode of termination, as well as political institutions in turn affect the strength of elite resistance to redistributive policies.