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Political survival, policy distribution, and alliance formation


  • Anessa L. Kimball

    (Département de science politique, Université Laval,


Existing work cannot explain why countries form alliances when direct security threats are not a key political issue, though we know countries routinely do engage in that behavior. Countries form alliances to manage the essential problem that they must use finite budget resources to provide social policy and national security; the ‘guns versus butter’ dilemma. States ally to ‘contract out’ national security via the formation of alliance contracts so they can allocate more resources to domestic concerns. Alliances increase the efficiency of security policy by providing the same level of security with fewer resources, thus freeing those resources for use in other domains. Not only should alliances form when security threats do not dominate the political agenda, but also domestic political and economic demands will influence alliance decisions. In positing a domestic politics-based explanation for alliance formation, this article argues that increased demands for social policy goods increase the chances of alliance formation as leaders seek greater policy allocation efficiency. The use of a production possibilities frontier illustrates the central argument. Those claims are examined on a sample of all country-years from 1816—2000 using a probit model. Empirical results suggest changes in the demand for social policy goods, operationalized as changes in the infant mortality rate, are an important cause of alliance behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Anessa L. Kimball, 2010. "Political survival, policy distribution, and alliance formation," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 47(4), pages 407-419, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:47:y:2010:i:4:p:407-419

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    Cited by:

    1. Buscema, Massimo & Ferilli, Guido & Sacco, Pier Luigi, 2017. "What kind of ‘world order’? An artificial neural networks approach to intensive data mining," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 46-56.

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    alliances; guns vs butter; political survival;


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