Alliances versus federations: An extension of riker's analysis of federal formation

Journal Article

This essay explores the distinction between federations and alliances and asks the question: When will states choose to federate rather than ally? William Poker argues that a necessary condition for a federal state's formation is that those offering the federal bargain must seek to "expand their territorial control, usually either to meet an external military or diplomatic threat or to prepare for military or diplomatic aggression and aggrandizement." This argument, though, does not tell us why states sometimes respond to threats by forming federations and at other times by forming alliances. Here we address this issue directly and use a formal model of alliance formation to illustrate our arguments. Briefly, that model assumes states have initial endowments of military and economic resources, where economic resources enter utility functions directly and military capability influences preference only insofar as it determines a state's ability to counter or make threats. State can divert economic resources to military spending, and alliances, in turn, are self-enforcing coalitions designed to augment a state's offensive or defensive capabilities. Federations, which serve the same ends as alliances, are coalitions that need to be enforced by the "higher authority" established when the federation is formed. Our assumption is that states form federations in lieu of alliances if and only if (1) a stable alliance partition does not exist or, if one exists, it is dominated by an unstable partition and (2) if the cost of the loss of sovereignty to each state in the federation is offset by the gains from joining it, relative to what that state secures as its security value. © 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Niou, EMS; Ordeshook, PC

Published Date

  • December 1, 1998

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 271 - 288

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1043-4062

Citation Source

  • Scopus