Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, 19 December 2017

We have theories of why states form, but until now no systematic data on the process. This column uses a new dataset on 650 locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to explain why armed actors may create the functions of a state. When a village's output was valuable but could not easily be taxed, armed actors developed sophisticated fiscal and legal administrations to extract revenue. Household welfare improved only when these stationary bandits had ties to the population.

Nathan Nunn, Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, 25 June 2017

Beliefs about origins, life after death, and rituals that activate supernatural processes to help people navigate life, despite being almost certainly incorrect, are common in developing countries. This column examines the role of ‘magical’ beliefs in warfare in the context of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Belief in a spell that offers protection from bullets helped villagers liberate their village, and others in the area, from militias, providing an example of how the ‘right’ amount of ‘wrong’ beliefs can achieve a socially efficient outcome.

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