Saturday, August 26, 2017
Mara Revkin (Yale), The Non-Economic Functions of Rebel Taxation: New Data from the Islamic State in Syria:
Previous studies predict that rebel groups with access to exploitable resources will engage in looting rather than invest in building the complex bureaucracies that are necessary for taxation. This claim relies on an untested assumption that the sole purpose of rebel taxation is to collect revenue. I challenge this assumption with granular district-month data on seven types of tax policies from the 18 Syrian districts that have been governed by the Islamic State (IS) since 2013.
The motivating puzzle is that IS imposes heavy taxes in the most oil-rich area of Syria, contradicting the predictions of existing theories. I resolve this puzzle by accounting for three non-economic functions of taxation in state-building: social control, collective identity formation, and demographic engineering. The theory is supported by statistical analysis and a case study of al-Mayadin district, which is home to the largest oil field in Syria and therefore a “hard test.”