On the Origins of the State: Stationary Bandits and Taxation in Eastern Congo

Working Paper
Published on 10 January 2017


Sanchez de la Sierra (2017) gathers panel data on armed actors in 650 locations of Eastern Congo to explain the emergence and trajectories of Tilly (1985)’s essential functions of the state. A demand shock for coltan, a bulky commodity, leads violent actors to organize monopolies of violence, tax output, and provide protection at coltan-producing locations. A similar shock for gold, which can be concealed to avoid taxes, does not. Instead, it leads armed actors to form monopolies of violence in the villages in which gold miners spend their income, and to introduce consumption and wealth taxes, as well as fiscal and legal administrations to reduce evasion. This process benefits the population, only if such functions are embodied by a popular militia.