Working Paper No. 751

Democracy, Autocracy and the Likelihood of International Conflict

Published: June 13, 2008Keywords: Democracy; Autocracy; War; Maximal EquilibriumJEL-codes: D72; D74; D82

Democracy, Autocracy and the Likelihood of International Conflict Thomas Tangerås


This is a game-theoretic analysis of the link between regime type and international conflict. The democratic electorate can credibly punish the leader for bad conflict outcomes, whereas the autocratic selectorate cannot. For the fear of being thrown out of office, democratic leaders are (i) more selective about the wars they initiate and (ii) on average win more of the wars they start. Foreign policy behaviour is found to display strategic complementarities. The likelihood of interstate war, therefore, is lowest in the democratic dyad (pair), highest in the autocratic dyad with the mixed dyad in between. The results are consistent with empirical findings.


Thomas Tangerås

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