Information, Popular Constraint, and the Democratic Peace

36 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2014 Last revised: 19 Mar 2014

See all articles by Philip B.K. Potter

Philip B.K. Potter

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

Matthew Baum

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: March 18, 2014

Abstract

Politicians and scholars have long argued that democracies are less prone to international conflict, at least with other democracies. However, while there is widespread acceptance of this “law” in international affairs, the theoretical mechanism that drives it remains opaque. We argue that the distinctive behavior of democracies arises from very specific features of their political institutions that can facilitate (or hinder) the transmission of information between leaders and the public. Specifically, popular constraint on executive action relies on robust partisan opposition that can blow the whistle on foreign policy failures, and media institutions that can effectively relay this information to the voting public. Crucially, not all democracies are alike when it comes to these institutions, meaning that the “democratic peace” may not actually apply equally to all. We find support for these propositions in time series, cross-sectional analyses of conflict initiation from 1965 to 2006.

Keywords: Democratic Peace, Media, Parties

Suggested Citation

Potter, Philip B.K. and Baum, Matthew, Information, Popular Constraint, and the Democratic Peace (March 18, 2014). HKS Working Paper No. RWP14-015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2397416 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2397416

Philip B.K. Potter (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics ( email )

PO Box 400787
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904
United States

Matthew Baum

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1291 (Phone)
617-495-8696 (Fax)

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