Root: Tying the King's hands
Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Root. 1989. Tying the King's hands: Credible commitments and royal fiscal policy during the old regime. Rationality and Society 1 (October): 240-258..
Conclusion: "The irony of absolutism":
- "in sum, because the king claimed full discretion, he had less real power" (253). He had to pay higher interest on loans because he claimed to be above the law
- So he supported the growth and strengthening of intermediaries that could act as bankers for the king, taking loans from the public to make loans to the king. This included the traditional corporations: village communities, guilds, provincial estates.
- Later, though, the many concessions granted to these groups made tax collection difficult. The king wanted to dissolve these corporations, but found that he couldn't. (He didn't have the resources to absorb their debt, thus risked financial crisis by just absorbing them and leaving their debts to the public unpaid).
- So the corporations had gained the power to "impose their terms on the crown and to block efforts to overhaul the fiscal system" (253)