How Does Democratic Accountability Shape International Cooperation?
In democratic societies, citizens can hold their government politically accountable for the consequences of international cooperation. Can democratic accountability shape international cooperation under strategic interdependence, and if so, to what effect? I show formally that citizens can endow a government with incentives to promote the public good by conditioning political support on the consequences of international cooperation. Contravening the conventional wisdom, democratic accountability effectively shapes international cooperation. Since international cooperation is reciprocal, domestic democratic accountability also influences the behavior of foreign governments, even if they are autocratic. Empirically, democratic accountability in one country increases the expected dyadic level of international cooperation if and only if the expected social benefits to that country are substantial enough. However, the analysis also reveals that democracies might sometimes obtain a higher payoff from cooperation with autocracies that do not have democratic accountability mechanisms. These findings indicate that the democratic propensity for international cooperation is a contingent phenomenon.
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