chapter  6
22 Pages

The political economy of taxation and resource mobilization in sub-Saharan Africa


The process of tax collection is one of the most powerful lenses in political economy to assess the distribution of power and the legitimacy of the state and of powerful interest groups in civil society. The collection of tax not only requires substantial coercive power, but more importantly requires a state to be legitimate since the vast majority of tax is collected when there is a high level of voluntary compliance (Levi, 1988). Douglass North, for instance, defines the state in terms of taxation powers: “. . . an organization with a comparative advantage in violence, extending over a geographic area whose boundaries are determined by its power to tax constituents” (North, 1981: 21). Long before that Edmund Burke remarked: “Revenue is the chief preoccupation of the state. Nay more it is the state” (quoted in O’Brien (2001: 25).