This paper shows that the emergence of the federal power to tax is the result of a sovereign debt crisis at the state level. I analyse the fiscal history of the early United States (US) to demonstrate how the institutional flaws of the Articles of Confederation, mainly the central budget based on contributions from the states, so-called ‘requisitions’, led to a sovereign debt crisis on the state level, which triggered taxpayers’ revolts in 1786/1787. This social unrest, in turn, was perceived by the political élite as an endogenous threat to the union and paved the way for the fiscalization of the federal government, i.e., the creation of a fiscal union with the federal power to tax based firmly in the Constitution of 1789. This analysis concludes with four insights for the European Union (EU).
Tomasz P. Woźniakowski (2018) Why the sovereign debt crisis could lead to a federal fiscal union: the paradoxical origins of fiscalization in the United States and insights for the European Union, Journal of European Public Policy, 25:4, 630-649.