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Political Institutions and War Initiation: The Democratic Peace Hypothesis Revisited

  • Michelle R. Garfinkel


    (Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine)

This chapter analyzes the influence of democratic institutions---specifically, the effects of (i) electoral uncertainty when individuals within a nation have different preferences over public peaceful investment and (ii) greater checks and balances that lead to a more effective mobilization of resources for both public peaceful investment and arming---on a nation's incentive to arm and willingness to initiate war. The analysis is based on a model where nations contest some given resource and where they cannot commit to their future allocations to arming; yet, the victor in a conflict today gains an advantage in future conflict and thus realizes a savings in future arming. These assumptions imply that, despite the short-term incentives to settle peacefully, one or both nations might choose to initiate war. In such a setting, electoral uncertainty tends to make a democracy more peaceful relative to an autocracy, whereas greater checks and balances tend to make a democracy less peaceful. Thus, while two democracies might be more peaceful than two autocracies when paired against each other in a contest over a given resource, this is not necessarily the case. Even under conditions where democracies are most likely to be peaceful with one another, democracies are at least as likely to be in war with autocracies as autocracies are likely to be in war each other.

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Paper provided by University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 101107.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:irv:wpaper:101107
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  1. Thomas Tangerås, 2009. "Democracy, autocracy and the likelihood of international conflict," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 99-117, April.
  2. Hess, Gregory D & Orphanides, Athanasios, 1995. "War Politics: An Economic, Rational-Voter Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 828-46, September.
  3. Michelle R Garfinkel & Stergios Skaperdas, 2001. "Conflict Without Misperceptions or Incomplete Information: How the Future Matters," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000011, David K. Levine.
  4. Michelle R. Garfinkel & Stergios Skaperdas, 2006. "Economics of Conflict: An Overview," Working Papers 050623, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2006.
  5. Gilat Levy & Ronny Razin, 2004. "It takes two : an explanation of the democratic peace," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 539, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  6. Matthew O. Jackson & Massimo Morelli, 2007. "Political Bias and War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1353-1373, September.
  7. Garfinkel, M.R., 1992. ""Domestic Politics and International Conflict"," Papers 90-92-30, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  8. Gregory D. Hess & Athanasios Orphanides, 1999. "War and Democracy," CESifo Working Paper Series 201, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Anbarci, N. & Skaperdas, S. & Syropoulos, C., 2000. "Comparing Bargaining Solutions in the Shadow of Conflict: How Norms Against Threats Can Have Real Effects," Papers 00-01-19, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  10. Michael McBride & Stergios Skaperdas, 2009. "Conflict, Settlement, and the Shadow of the Future," Working Papers 080922, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  11. Sandeep Baliga & David O. Lucca & Tomas Sjöström, 2011. "Domestic Political Survival and International Conflict: Is Democracy Good for Peace?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(2), pages 458-486.
  12. Paola Conconi & Nicolas Sahuguet & Maurizio Zanardi, 2014. "Democratic Peace and Electoral Accountability," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/145492, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  13. Skaperdas, Stergios & Syropoulos, Constantinos, 1996. "Can the shadow of the future harm cooperation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 355-372, May.
  14. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
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