The Choice for Multilateralism: Foreign Aid and American Foreign Policy
47 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 4 Nov 2010
Date Written: 2010
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
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