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An Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson and Alastair Smith

American Political Science Review, 1999, vol. 93, issue 4, 791-807

Abstract: We examine formally the link between domestic political institutions and policy choices in the context of eight empirical regularities that constitute the democratic peace. We demonstrate that democratic leaders, when faced with war, are more inclined to shift extra resources into the war effort than are autocrats. This follows because the survival of political leaders with larger winning coalitions hinges on successful policy. The extra effort made by democrats provides a military advantage over autocrats. This makes democrats unattractive targets, since their institutional constraints cause them to mobilize resources for the war effort. In addition to trying harder, democrats are more selective in their choice of targets. Because defeat is more likely to lead to domestic replacement for democrats than for autocrats, democrats only initiate wars they expect to win. These two factors lead to the interaction between polities that is often referred to as the democratic peace.

Date: 1999
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