Democracy, interdependence, and the sources of the liberal peace
Can the world be made more peaceful through commerce? Empirical studies of the impact of trade on military conflict have yielded conflicting results depending on the specific measures and empirical domains that scholars select for their studies. The article suggests that these varying results may be due to inadequate specification of the conditions under which trade will prevent conflict. In particular, previous research suggests that democratic leaders rely on public policy successes, such as economic growth, to maintain their political viability to a greater degree than do autocratic leaders. Since trade can help promote growth, the authors argue that democratic leaders should be more averse than autocratic leaders to initiating military conflicts with trading partners, for such conflicts might damage commercial ties and hamper politically important economic growth. The authors find support for this expectation in their analysis of trade integration and international conflict initiation by democratic and autocratic states between 1950 and 1992. The results are robust across different data sources on trade and conflict, suggesting that the conditional impact of trade on conflict may explain the variance in previous results. However, these results have sobering implications for the view that trade dependence by itself can be a mechanism for preventing autocratic states from using military force. © 2008 Journal of Peace Research.
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