In a relatively short time, the American state developed from a
weak, highly decentralized confederation composed of thirteen
former English colonies into the foremost global superpower. This
remarkable institutional transformation would not have been
possible without the revenue raised by a particularly efficient
system of public finance, first crafted during the Civil War and
then resurrected and perfected in the early twentieth century. That
revenue financed America's participation in two global wars as well
as the building of a modern system of social welfare programs.
Sheldon D. Pollack shows how war, revenue, and institutional
development are inextricably linked, no less in the United States
than in Europe and in the developing states of the Third World. He
delineates the mechanisms of political development and reveals to
us the ways in which the United States, too, once was and still may
be a "developing nation." Without revenue, states cannot maintain
political institutions, undergo development, or exert sovereignty
over their territory. Rulers and their functionaries wield the
coercive powers of the state to extract that revenue from the
population under their control. From this perspective, the state is
seen as a highly efficient machine for extracting societal revenue
that is used by the state to sustain itself.
War, Revenue, and State Building traces the sources of
public revenue available to the American state at specific
junctures of its history (in particular, during times of war), the
revenue strategies pursued by its political leaders in response to
these factors, and the consequential impact of those strategies on
the development of the American state.
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