University of Southern California

The Stamp Act and the Political Origins of American Legal and Economic Institutions

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Article by Justin DuRivage & Claire Priest
From Volume 88, Number 4 (May, 2015)

88 S. Cal. L. Rev. 875

The American colonial protest against Parliament’s Stamp Act was a landmark event in the history of the Founding Era, propelling the colonies toward independence. To date, scholars have focused on colonists’ constitutional objections to the Stamp Act. Yet, the Stamp Act taxed legal and institutional services and, as this Article describes, the opposition to the Stamp Act also focused on defending low-cost institutions that served local communities. It examines the arguments for and against the Stamp Act as revealing two distinct visions of the role for institutions in economic growth. It suggests that American independence affirmed colonists’ commitment to low-cost locally managed institutions within their developing economy.

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