The growth of the modern regulatory state is often explained in terms of an unambiguous increase in regulation driven by the actions of central governments. Contrary to this traditional narrative, we argue that governments often strove to weaken the autarkic tendencies of regional laws, thereby promoting greater trade and a more integrated market. For this purpose, we focus on the wine industry in France at the turn of the twentieth century and take advantage of a quasi-natural experiment generated by a law implemented on 1 January 1901 which lowered and harmonized various local tax rates. We show that high internal taxes on wine, set by regional governments, discouraged trade and protected small producers. We then trace how the political response to this tax decrease led to increases in wine regulation.
This article studies housing rents in St. Petersburg from 1880 throuhg 1917, covering an eventful period of Russian and world history. Digitizing over 5,000 rental advertisements, we construct a state-of-the-art index — the first pre-war and pre-Soviet market data index for any Russian city. In 1915, a rent control and tenant protection policy was introduced in response to soaring prices following the outbreak of WWI. We document official compliance, rising tenure duration, and strongly increased affordability for workers. While the immediate prelude to the October Revolution was indeed characterized by economic turmoil, rent affordability did not dominate.
This paper examines knowledge spillovers across ethnic boundaries. Using the case of skilled German immigrants in the Russian Empire, we study technology adoption among Russian peasants. We find that distance to German settlements predicts the prevalence of heavy iron ploughs, fanning mills and wheat sowing among Russians, who traditionally ploughed with a light wooden ard and sowed rye. The main channel of technology adoption was German fairs. We show that heavy ploughs increased the labor productivity of Russian peasants. However, communication barriers precluded Russians from adopting skill-intensive occupations like blacksmithing, mechanics, carpentry, and other crafts. The results suggest that skilled immigrants may enhance local development through the introduction of advanced tools without transmitting their skills to a receiving society.