comparative politics Japan-related research

JPOSS #36: “Show Me the Money: Explaining Fiscal Capacity Building in Late 16th Century Japan”

The thirty-sixth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on March 2, 2023. Amy Catalinac (New York University) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Austin Mitchell (Tohoku University) and Weiwen Yin (University of Macau) presented a paper co-authored with Minzhao Wang (Peking University), looking at the motivations behind the development of fiscal capacity. They focus on the case of 16th-century Japan where the state under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s rule observed surprising levels of centralization of power in its implementation of cadastral surveys. According to the authors, this act of overcoming asymmetric information between central and local governments is a crucial step toward developing fiscal capacity in the state-building process. Their study probes the case using a number of theories, namely the presence of external threat, domestic power competition, and revenue maximization. Using a logistic regression model on provincial-level data, the authors show that the implementation of surveys was driven by agricultural output, specifically rice production, thereby showing support for revenue maximization as a driver of fiscal capacity building. They find no evidence for the effect of external threat faced by the provinces as well as internal threat posed by the presence of powerful domestic rivals in these provinces.

David Stasavage (New York University) and Junichi Yamasaki (Kobe University) offered insightful comments on the theoretical framework, untapped contributions of the study, and suggestions for improvements to the research design. During the Q&A session, participants expanded on discussions of research design and endogeneity concerns, and provided suggestions for alternative measures as well as ways to circumvent these issues.

This event attracted around 16 participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: