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The Democratic Peace: An Experimental Test of a Causal Relation and of Underlying Mechanisms


  • Jordi Brandts
  • Catherine Eckel
  • Enrique Fatas
  • Shaun Hargreaves-Heap


Democracies go to war with each other less frequently than dictatorships do with each other. This is an established empirical regularity. We use a laboratory experiments to study whether there is a causal relation between democracy and peace. We distinguish democracy from dictatorship along three dimensions of governance: voting, equal treatment of citizens and participation in deliberation. We find a full democracy in this sense is less bellicose than a full dictatorship. The key source of this difference in democracies is participation in deliberation because this raises the opportunity cost of conflict. We also study two extensions of the basic problem.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & Catherine Eckel & Enrique Fatas & Shaun Hargreaves-Heap, 2020. "The Democratic Peace: An Experimental Test of a Causal Relation and of Underlying Mechanisms," Working Papers 1203, Barcelona School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:1203

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    Cited by:

    1. Eckel, Catherine C. & Fatas, Enrique & Kass, Malcolm, 2022. "Sacrifice: An experiment on the political economy of extreme intergroup punishment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 90(C).

    More about this item


    conflict; governance; democracy; dictatorship;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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