The Choice for Multilateralism: Foreign Aid and American Foreign Policy

47 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 4 Nov 2010

See all articles by Helen V. Milner

Helen V. Milner

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Dustin Tingley

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

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Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Why do states choose multilateralism? We develop three theories that could explain this choice: a principal-agent model in which states trade some control over the policy for greater burden sharing; a normative logic of appropriateness; and hegemonic self-binding in which powerful states seek to reassure other countries. Each theory leads to distinct observable hypotheses regarding both the reasons for and the patterns of the public’s support and opposition to multilateralism. To focus our study, we choose to analyze bilateral and multilateral foreign aid giving by the United States. The U.S. position as hegemon makes it a good test, and aid is an important avenue of foreign policy with clear bilateral and multilateral choices. By analyzing survey data, we provide evidence about the correlates of public support for multilateral engagement, showing that two competing rationales - burden sharing and control - dictate some of the politics around the choice between multilateral and bilateral aid channels. We conclude with a discussion of how a principal-agent model can help us understand the choice for multilateralism.

Keywords: multilateralism, foreign policy, foreign aid, principal-agent

Suggested Citation

Milner, Helen V. and Tingley, Dustin, The Choice for Multilateralism: Foreign Aid and American Foreign Policy (2010). International Political Economy Society 2010 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642604

Helen V. Milner (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States
609-258-0181 (Phone)

Dustin Tingley

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

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