Location: Room 357 Levin Building
School of Business and Economics
Democracy fights in darkness
It is an empirical regularity that democratic countries go to war with each other less than pairs of dictatorships (the so called dyadic interaction). The question is whether this relation is causal: do democracies make wars less likely? In a sequence of four laboratory experiments we study potential causal mechanisms, together with the behavioral change induced by different political institutions. In Experiment 1, democratic or dictatorial conditions are first exogenously imposed on distinct groups of participants. Groups are then paired, and play a Tullock conflict game with each other. Our measure of a group’s bellicosity is their investment in this conflict, decided by voters (the dictator) in democratic (non-democratic) regimes. As in a final stage, participants decide how much to contribute to a public good from the resources not invested in conflict. We find no evidence of either causal mechanism linking democracies to peace, as democracies fight other democracies are significantly more bellicose than non-democratic regimes. Similar results are obtained when we repeat the analysis for asymmetric interactions of democratic and non-democratic regimes in Experiment 2 (the monadic interaction), as democracies drag non-democracies into conflict. In Experiments 3 and 4, we expand our definition of democratic institutions by adding a deliberation stage, giving full freedom of expression to participants (in both democratic and non-democratic regimes). While deliberation dramatically reduces bellicosity (and increases contributions to the public good) in democratic regimes, it significantly increases investment in conflict in inclusive dictatorships. Deliberation switches on and off different conditional contribution channels in democratic and non-democratic teams, and makes democracies more sophisticated, with efficient spillovers.