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Domestic Political Survival and International Conflict: Is Democracy Good for Peace?

  • Sandeep Baliga



  • David Lucca


    (Federal Reserve Board)

  • Tomas Sjostrom



We build a game-theoretic model where aggression can be triggered by domestic political concerns as well as the fear of being attacked. In the model, leaders of full and limited democracies risk losing power if they do not stand up to threats from abroad. In addition, the leader of a fully democratic country loses the support of the median voter if he attacks a non-hostile country. The result is a non-monotonic relationship between democracy and peace. Using the Polity IV dataset, we classify countries as full democracies, limited democracies, and dictatorships. For the period 1816-200, Correlates of War data suggest that limited democracies are more aggressive than other regime types, including dictatorships, and not only during periods when the political regime is changing. In particular, a dyad of limited democracies is more likely to be involved in a militarized dispute than any other dyad (including "mixed" dyads, where the two countries have different regime types). Thus, while full democratization might advance the cause of peace, limited democratization might advance the cause of war. We also find that as the environment becomes more hostile, fully democratic countries become more aggressive faster than other regime types.

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Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 200907.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 28 Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:200907
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  2. Hans Carlsson & Eric van Damme, 1993. "Global Games and Equilibrium Selection," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001088, David K. Levine.
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  4. Gilat Levy & Ronny Razin, 2004. "It Takes Two: An Explanation for the Democratic Peace," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-29, 03.
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  7. Daniel M. Jones & Stuart A. Bremer & J. David Singer, 1996. "Militarized Interstate Disputes, 1816–1992: Rationale, Coding Rules, and Empirical Patterns," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 15(2), pages 163-213, September.
  8. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
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  10. Chassang, Sylvain & Miquel, Gerard Padró i, 2009. "Economic Shocks and Civil War," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 4(3), pages 211-228, October.
  11. Powell, Robert, 2006. "War as a Commitment Problem," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 169-203, January.
  12. 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.
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