Slave trade legacies

I just came across another interesting looking paper on slave trade legacies.  It is by Warren Whatley and titled “The transatlantic slave trade and the evolution of political authority in West Africa.”  My reading list is getting long but this will definitely be added to it.
I trace the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the evolution of political authority in West Africa. I present econometric evidence showing that the trans-Atlantic slave trade increased absolutism in pre-colonial West Africa by approximately 17% to 35%, while reducing democracy and liberalism. I argue that this slavery-induced absolutism also influenced the structure of African political institutions in the colonial era and beyond. I present aggregate evidence showing that British colonies that exported more slaves in the era of the slave trade were ruled more-indirectly by colonial administrations. I argue that indirect colonial rule relied on sub-national absolutisms to control populations and extract surplus, and in the process transformed absolutist political customs into rule of law. The post-colonial federal authority, like the colonial authority before it, lacked the administrative apparatus and political clout to integrate these local authorities, even when they wanted to. From this perspective, state-failure in West Africa may be rooted in a political and economic history that is unique to Africa in many respects, a history that dates at least as far back as the era of the transatlantic slave trade.

Corruption and Colonial Legacies

There has been some great work in the last couple of years investigating the long-run effects of Spanish colonialism on Latin American development.  Melissa Dell’s “The persistent effects of Peru’s mining mita” is one example (it was published in Econometrica but here is a working paper version).

I just learned of another interesting working paper on this general topic.  The author is Jenny Guardado R. and the piece is called “Office-Selling, Corruption and Long-term Development in Peru.” I haven’t read it yet but it’s moving to the top of my pile.  Here’s the (rather long) abstract:

This paper investigates the private returns to colonial offices and how these influence long-term economic and political outcomes across sub-national provinces in Peru. Exploiting exogenous variation in the needs of Spanish monarchs to sell offices due to fiscal emergencies induced by European wars and employing a unique dataset of the prices at which they sold them, I show how rates paid for colonial offices exhibit a pattern consistent with rent- seeking. In particular, positions with greater access to rents from agriculture and to gains from trade monopolies exhibit differentially higher prices than others. A closer look at the mechanisms behind these results reveals that when faced with a trade-off between revenue and quality of colonial officials, the Crown generally chose the former. The result was a decline in the ability of the Spanish monarch to monitor and enforce colonial policy limiting rent-seeking. I then present evidence demonstrating that these activities exerted negative influences on development over the long run. Specifically, provinces with highly valued offices in the 18th century today have higher poverty rates, lower public good provision and lower household consumption. One reason why the effects of rent-seeking persisted is through political conflict: provinces with highly valued offices also exhibited frequent anti-colonial rebellions, heightened anti-government violence and a deep-seated mistrust of politicians and democracy today. These results suggest that corruption have negative lasting consequences for economic development by exacerbating political conflicts.

h/t Justin Sandefur