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Empire, Public Goods, and the Roosevelt Corollary


  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Marc D. Weidenmier


The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine marked a turning point in American foreign policy. In 1904, President Roosevelt announced that, not only were European powers not welcome in the Americas, but that the U.S. had the right to intervene in the affairs of Central American and Caribbean countries that were unstable and did not pay their debts. We use this change in U.S. policy to test Kindleberger's hypothesis that a hegemon can provide public goods such as increased financial stability and peace. Using a newly assembled database of weekly sovereign debt prices, we find that the average sovereign debt price for countries under the U.S. 'sphere of influence' rose by 74% in the year following the announcement of the policy. With the dramatic rise in bond prices, the threat of European intervention to support bondholder claims in the Western Hemisphere waned, and the U.S. was able to exert its role as regional hegemon. We find some evidence that the Corollary spurred export growth and better fiscal management by reducing conflict in the region, but it appears that debt settlements were driven primarily by gunboat diplomacy and the threat of lost sovereignty.

Suggested Citation

  • Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2004. "Empire, Public Goods, and the Roosevelt Corollary," NBER Working Papers 10729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10729
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alan M. Taylor, 2003. "Foreign Capital in Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," NBER Working Papers 9580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David H. Cutler & James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1988. "What Moves Stock Prices?," Working papers 487, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kim Oosterlinck & Loredana Ureche-Rangau & Jacques-Marie Vaslin, 2013. "Waterloo: a Godsend for French Public Finances?," Working Papers 0041, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. NAKABAYASHI, Masaki, 2008. "Imposed Efficiency of Treaty Port: Japanese Industrialization and Western Imperialist Institutions," ISS Discussion Paper Series (series F) f142, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, revised 15 Jun 2012.
    3. Kim Oosterlinck, 2013. "Sovereign debt defaults: insights from history," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 697-714, WINTER.
    4. Christopher Coyne & Abigail Hall, 2014. "The empire strikes back: Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and the Robust Political Economy of empire," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 27(4), pages 359-385, December.
    5. della Paolera, Gerardo & Taylor, Alan M., 2013. "Sovereign debt in Latin America, 1820-1913," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(02), pages 173-217, September.
    6. Rui Pedro Esteves, 2007. "Quis custodiet quem? Sovereign Debt and Bondholders` Protection Before 1914," Economics Series Working Papers 323, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Hauner, Thomas & Milanovic, Branko & Naidu, Suresh, 2017. "Inequality, Foreign Investment, and Imperialism," MPRA Paper 83068, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Burdekin, Richard C.K., 2006. "Bondholder gains from the annexation of Texas and implications of the US bailout," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 646-666, October.
    9. Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2005. "Supersanctions and Sovereign Debt Repayment," NBER Working Papers 11472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Niall Ferguson & Moritz Schularick, 2005. "The Empire Effect: Country Risk in the First Age of Globalization, 1880-1913," Economic History 0509002, EconWPA.
    11. Meissner, Christopher M., 2014. "Growth from Globalization? A View from the Very Long Run," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 1033-1069 Elsevier.
    12. Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc D., 2010. "Supersanctions and sovereign debt repayment," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 19-36, February.
    13. Christopher J. Coyne & Steve Davies, 2007. "Empire: Public Goods and Bads," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 4(1), pages 3-45, January.
    14. Schularick, Moritz & Steger, Thomas M., 2008. "The Lucas Paradox and the quality of institutions: then and now," Discussion Papers 2008/3, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems

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