Domestic Peace

Kevin Lewis

February 08, 2023

Ballot or Bullet: The Impact of the UK’s Representation of the People Act on Peace and Prosperity
Andrea Marcucci, Dominic Rohner & Alessandro Saia
Economic Journal, forthcoming 


Does democracy curb domestic political violence? To study this, we focus on the United Kingdom’s Representation of the People Act of 1867 -- which is a critical juncture in the history of democratization. Constructing a novel borough (‘urban center’) level dataset on social conflict events and economic performance around the 1868 Elections (the first elections where newly enfranchised citizens could vote), we exploit arguably exogenous variation in enfranchisement intensity. We find a strong and robust peace-promoting effect of franchise extension and identify as a major channel of transmission the increase of the population’s political influence (voice) and local economic growth.

A Theory of External Wars and European Parliaments
Brenton Kenkel & Jack Paine
International Organization, forthcoming 


The development of parliamentary constraints on the executive was critical in Western European political history. Previous scholarship identifies external wars as a key factor, but with varying effects. Sometimes, willing monarchs granted parliamentary rights in return for revenues to fight wars. Yet at other times, war threats empowered rulers over other elites or caused states to fragment. We analyze a formal model to understand how external wars can either stimulate or undermine prospects for a contractual relationship between a ruler and elite actors. We recover the standard intuition that war threats make the ruler more willing to grant parliamentary rights in return for revenue. Our key insight is that war threats also affect the bargaining position of elites. A previously unrecognized tension yields our new findings: stronger outsider threats increase pressure either on elites to fund the ruler or on the ruler to accept constraints -- but not both simultaneously. Elites with immobile wealth depend on the ruler for security. War threats undercut their credibility to refuse funding for an unconstrained ruler. By contrast, war threats make elites with mobile wealth and a viable exit option unwilling to fund a hopeless war effort. Only under circumscribed conditions do war threats align three conditions needed for parliament to arise in equilibrium: ruler willingness, elite credibility, and elite willingness. We apply our theory to posit strategic foundations for waves and reversals of historical European parliaments.

Subjective and Objective Measurement of Democratic Backsliding
Andrew Little & Anne Meng
University of Virginia Working Paper, January 2023 


Despite the general narrative that we are in a period of global democratic decline, there have been surprisingly few empirical studies to assess whether this is systematically true. Most existing studies of backsliding rely heavily, if not entirely, on subjective indicators which rely on expert coder judgement. We survey other more objective indicators of democracy (such as incumbent performance in elections), and find little evidence of global democratic decline over the last decade. To explain the discrepancy between trends in subjective and objective indicators, we develop formal models that consider the role of coder bias and leaders strategically using more subtle undemocratic action. The simplest explanation is that recent declines in average democracy scores are driven by changes in coder bias. While we cannot rule out the possibility that the world is experiencing major democratic backsliding almost exclusively in ways which require subjective judgement to detect, this claim is not justified by existing evidence.

Repression and backlash protests: Why leader arrests backfire
Felix Schulte & Christoph Steinert
International Interactions, forthcoming 


This study investigates how different targets of state-sanctioned arrests shape the likelihood of collective action. We hypothesize that leader arrests are especially likely to result in backlash protests. Leader arrests symbolize the suppression of social collectives, they create collective grievances, and constitute focal points for mobilization. Building on a global sample of arrests of cultural identity group members, we qualitatively traced for each arrest whether it sparked a backlash protest. Drawing on coarsened exact matched models, we find that protests are significantly more likely following leader arrests. In contrast, mass arrests are not significantly linked to backlash protests. Additional tests show that organizational membership does not drive this findings, whereas the symbolic value of leaders is linked to protest outbreaks. Our findings cast doubt on the narrow focus on quasi-constant structural variables and make the case for the disaggregation of repression and the importance of triggering events.

Policy Experimentation under Pressure in Contemporary China
Abbey Heffer & Gunter Schubert
China Quarterly, forthcoming 


Many studies put forward the argument that local policy experimentation, a key feature of China's policy process in the Hu Jintao era, has been paralysed by Xi Jinping's (re)centralization of political power -- otherwise known as “top-level design.” This narrative suggests that local policymakers have become increasingly risk-averse owing to the anti-corruption campaign and are therefore unwilling to experiment. This article, however, argues that local governments are still expected to innovate with new policy solutions and now will be punished if they do not. By introducing the analytical framework of “experimentation under pressure” and drawing on an analysis of over 3,000 local government regulations and fieldwork data related to foreign investment attraction policies in two localities, Foshan and Ganzhou, the authors highlight new features developing within current experimental policy cycles. Local cadres now have no choice but to experiment as the political risk of shirking the direct command to experiment may be higher than the inherent risk of experimentation itself.

Destroying Democracy for the People: The Economic, Social, and Political Consequences of Populist Rule, 1990 to 2017
Wade Cole & Evan Schofer
Social Problems, forthcoming 


The recent populist wave has raised questions about the implications of populism for democracy. Some scholars express optimism that populism may be a source of democratic revitalization, bringing about sweeping changes in accordance with the majority will. More often, populism is viewed as a threat to liberal democracy, combining calls for radical change with disdain for core democratic institutions and norms. We consider the possibility that these outcomes may not be mutually exclusive and develop a conceptual typology for understanding the consequences of populist rule. We then use cross-national panel fixed-effects models to analyze the effects of populist leadership between 1990 and 2017. We first examine whether populists have economic and social effects in line with their core aspirations. Left-wing populists are quite effective at implementing their agenda: they reduce income inequality, regulate markets, and incorporate marginalized groups. Right-wing populists are also fairly impactful: for instance, they raise tariffs, cut taxes, and restrict the rights of women and gay people. However, populists of all stripes are associated with the rapid and severe erosion of liberal democratic institutions. Populists, we conclude, often destroy democracy in the name of the people.

Repression Works (Just Not in Moderation)
Yuri Zhukov
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming 


Why does government violence deter political challengers in one context but inflame them in the next? This paper argues that repression increases opposition activity at low and moderate levels but decreases it in the extreme. There is a threshold level of violence, where the opposition becomes unable to recruit new members, and the rebellion unravels—even if the government kills more innocents. We find empirical support for this proposition in disaggregated data from Chechnya and a meta-analysis of sub-national conflict dynamics in 71 countries. The data suggest that a threshold exists, but the level of violence needed to reach it varies. Many governments, thankfully, are unable or unwilling to go that far. We explore conditions under which this threshold may be higher or lower and highlight a fundamental trade-off between reducing government violence and preserving civil liberties.

Shaking Legitimacy: The Impact of Earthquakes on Conflict in Historical China
Ying Bai
Economic Journal, forthcoming 


This paper examines the causal effect of political legitimacy on stability, using the historical case of Imperial China. Chinese rulers ascribed their legitimacy to a heavenly mandate. Calamities like earthquakes were considered as a sign of weakened approval, making quakes a proxy for negative legitimacy shock. I use quake-induced minor shaking (i.e., strong enough to be felt but too weak to cause material damage) to demonstrate that legitimacy shocks cause more conflicts. I examine whether quakes serve as a coordination device to overcome collective action problems.

UN Peacekeeping and Democratization in Conflict-Affected Countries
Robert Blair, Jessica Di Salvatore & Hannah Smidt
American Political Science Review, forthcoming 


Does UN peacekeeping promote democracy in countries wracked by civil war? Existing studies are limited and reach contradictory conclusions. We develop a theory to explain how peacekeepers can help overcome obstacles to democratization in conflict-affected countries, then test our theory by combining three original datasets on UN mandates, personnel, and activities covering all UN missions in Africa since the end of the Cold War. Using fixed effects and instrumental variables estimators, we show that UN missions with democracy promotion mandates are strongly positively correlated with the quality of democracy in host countries but that the magnitude of the relationship is larger for civilian than for uniformed personnel, stronger when peacekeepers engage rather than bypass host governments when implementing reforms, driven in particular by UN election administration and oversight, and more robust during periods of peace than during periods of civil war.

War Did Make States: Revisiting the Bellicist Paradigm in Early Modern Europe
Lars-Erik Cederman et al.
International Organization, forthcoming 


Charles Tilly's classical claim that “war made states” in early modern Europe remains controversial. The “bellicist” paradigm has attracted theoretical criticism both within and beyond its original domain of applicability. While several recent studies have analyzed the internal aspects of Tilly's theory, there have been very few systematic attempts to assess its logic with regard to the territorial expansion of states. In this paper, we test this key aspect of bellicist theory directly by aligning historical data on European state borders with conflict data, focusing on the period from 1490 through 1790. Proceeding at the systemic, state, and dyadic levels, our analysis confirms that warfare did in fact play a crucial role in the territorial expansion of European states before (and beyond) the French Revolution.

Exposure to state violence and substance use
Alexandra Domike Blackman, Sarah Kammourh & Elizabeth Nugent
Research & Politics, December 2022 


We analyze whether exposure to state violence affects substance use at the individual level. In doing so, we bring together the political science and public health literatures on the effects of violence, analyzing an outcome that is neglected in political science and a type of violence that remains understudied in public health. We leverage a unique panel study, the Population Council’s Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE), to test whether rates of substance use are higher among those who were exposed to violence during the country’s 2011 revolution, a moment of intense state violence against civilians. Results demonstrate that direct exposure to state violence increases substance use; respondents exposed to violence are significantly more likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco than those who were not. Our findings are robust to specifications that control for respondents’ reported exposure to state violence prior to the revolution and substance use among family and friends, factors identified in medical research as key predictors. Our study sheds light on a fundamental predicament of authoritarian governance and the downstream effects of state violence.

Ethnic Remoteness Reduces the Peace Dividend from Trade Access
Klaus Desmet & Joseph Gomes
NBER Working Paper, January 2023 


This paper shows that ethnically remote locations do not reap the full peace dividend from increased market access. Exploiting the staggered implementation of the US-initiated Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and using high-resolution data on ethnic composition and violent conflict for sub-Saharan Africa, our analysis finds that in the wake of improved trade access conflict declines less in locations that are ethnically remote from the rest of the country. We hypothesize that ethnic remoteness acts as a barrier that hampers participation in the global economy. Consistent with this hypothesis, satellite-based luminosity data show that the income gains from improved trade access are smaller in ethnically remote locations, and survey data indicate that ethnically more distant individuals do not benefit from the same positive income shocks when exposed to increased market access. These results underscore the importance of ethnic barriers when analyzing which locations and groups might be left behind by globalization.


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