Journal Article

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

Sandeep Baliga, David O. Lucca and Tomas Sjöström

in The Review of Economic Studies

Published on behalf of Review of Economic Studies Ltd

Volume 78, issue 2, pages 458-486
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0034-6527
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1467-937X | DOI:
Domestic Political Survival and International Conflict: Is Democracy Good for Peace?

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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 Polity data, we classify countries as full democracies, limited democracies, and dictatorships. For the period 1816–2000, 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.

Keywords: Schelling's dilemma; Limited democracy; Democratic peace; D74; D78

Journal Article.  14393 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Analysis of Collective Decision-making

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