Thomas Ertman, Birth of the Leviathan (1997), Chapters 1, 7.

Main Question: How does one construct stable and legitimate states, learning from the European experience.
Summary: Looking at the European experience, Ertman argues that previous explanations are insufficient, primarily because they don’t account for Hungary and Poland. Ertman’s solution is to focus on two types of political regime (absolutist and constitutional) and two types of state apparatus (patrimonial and bureaucratic).  For Ertman, how a country gets slotted into these categories is a matter of two things. Concerning the regime, a country’s outcome is traceable to its history – the states of Latin Europe drew from historical experiences with the civitas, whereas the states on the periphery were able to develop smaller, durable and unencumbered states. Concerning the state apparatus, differences in the structure can be mostly accounted by timing – later state builders fared better, as they could draw on new techniques, new opportunities, and the experiences/mistakes of early adapters.  However, this framework doesn’t quite work. In order for Ertman to make this model fit the outcomes, he introduces the independent effect of parliaments. Strong representative institutions act as a buffer against change, which explains why countries which ‘should’ fall into a particular quadrant do not.
Methodology: Ertman performs a comparative historical analysis, relying on counterfactual cases in order to argue for the applicability of his theory.
Critique: We have no way of measuring the strength of a parliament, or any way of identifying strong vs. weak parliaments.
== Chapter 1 ==
Ertman is presenting a new general theory of state building, where three factors account for the majority of the variation:
1) Organization of local government during the first few centuries after state formation
2) The timing of the onset of sustained political competition.
3) The independent influence of strong representative assemblies on administrative and financial institutions.
Ertman doesn’t rely on the traditional view of the state (in notes), but instead breaks the state down into two component dimensions: (1) related to government or regime type; (2) the character of the state apparatus. The resulting typology is as follows:
Political Regimes
(1) Absolutist (2) Constitutional State Apparatus
(1) Patrimonial (2) Bureaucratic
Competing Explanations of State Building
Hintze – The greater the degree of geographic exposure, the greater the threat of land warfare; thus, the greater the chances that a ruler would undermine representative institutions and create an absolutist state with a standing army.
Tilly – A polity can avoid bureaucratization and perhaps absolutism in the wake of sustained military pressure if, as a result of a high level of economic development, it had access to abundant commercial revenues.
Mann – Takes Tilly’s position, but argues that different extractive strategies are linked to different regime types
Downing – Similar to Mann, but adds other revenue stores – income from conquered territories, foreign subsidies.
Anderson – Credits the divergent outcomes in Europe to Europe\’s uneven development – War also plays a large role.
Ertman’s account can explain the existence of the different types of assemblies that emerge in Europe, while other accounts (like Hintze’s) draw on them, but cannot explain them.  For Ertman, the answer to divergent outcomes is rooted in the divergent experiences of Latin Europe/Germany and Britain/Scandanavia/Poland/Hungary.  Essentially, Latin Europe built large scale city states upon the foundations of the civitas with legal codes, an imperial conception of rulership, highly regulated , non-competitive market economy, and a caesaro-papist church.  When these foundations weakened, there was a decline in central state authority, and a powerful landed elite was able to construct autonomous lordly dopmains centered upon their rural estates.  The non-Latin states had a very different starting point – unencumbered by the spectre of the civitas, they built durable new polities. Kingdoms were divided into smaller, regular, territorial units – governance was local and participatory.
Thus, what emerged was a divergence in the pattern of local government which led to the type of representative assembly, and ultimately the kind of political regime that would emerge – bicameral (participatory and representative) vs. Estate/Status based with only a tenuous connection to local government.
For Ertman, differences in state infrastructure can be explained by looking at economic history – timing matters.  Early state builders used methods and institutional arrangements that became outmoded and dysfunctional, but also highly resilient to change.  Late state builders (post-1450) were able to adopt the latest techniques of administration and finance.  They also benefited from an expansion in the number of expert personnel in existence (growth of universities, etc). Late state builders were also able to learn from the mistakes made by early state builders.<br/><br/>
Finally, a powerful national representative institution acts as an independent influence on the pattern of infrastructural development found among constitutional states, deflecting them from the path that they would have followed. In effect, the strength of the institution countered the development of the other kind of infrastructure.
Ertman’s argument can be reduced to the following:
DV = IV1 + IV2 + (IV3), where the inclusion of IV3 depends on the strength of the national representative institution.
== Chapter 7 ==
Geomilitary competition, tendencies toward absolutism and the growth of the state were ubiquitous, so they don’t explain differences in the paths and outcomes of polities.
1) The kind of political regime determined the ability of national representative assemblies to resist royal pressures for absolutism – and this was a function of the nature of local government.
2) The kind of state apparatus that emerged as a response to geomilitary competition depended on the conditions under which they were first constructed.
3) The independent influence of representative assemblies on administrative and financial infrastructures – where assemblies were strong, their interests and goals carried much more weight.
Take home lesson: A combination of a strong center and strong, participatory localities, will, over the long run, best permit states to balance the demands of infrastructural expansion, political participation, economic growth, and geopolitical competition.