I study the political economy of conflict, with a substantive focus on causes of international war. I am especially interested in understanding how features of the international system can affect war propensity. My work primarily uses game theory, network analysis, and structural estimation.
Princeton University — Student evaluations
Conflict Management and Peace Science, 39(5):487-519, 2022.
The preventive motive for war arises because states cannot commit to limit the use of their growing power. This commitment problem can lead to war when there are not enough resources available today to compensate the declining state for their expected losses. In this article, we show how capital markets affect preventive war incentives by introducing a profit-maximizing bond market to the canonical bargaining model of war. We find that the nature of the power shift and fundamentals of the market for debt interact to determine when a preventive motive is more likely to lead to war. Two main results show that (1) less probable but more extreme power shifts are most dangerous and (2) unlike the direct effect of interest rates on the cost of war, higher interest on sovereign debt makes war more likely. We present evidence for the latter effect by extending Lemke's (2003) study of preventive war for major-power dyads between 1816 and 1992.
Maintaining peace with adversaries is costly, yet conflict models typically depict cooperation as a costless byproduct of not fighting. This article provides a formal model where peace is costly and countries can diplomatically compete over the bargaining surplus. Against conventional wisdom, repeated interactions of patient countries can destabilize peace. The likelihood of war depends on fundamentals of the international order, such as the persistence of outcomes and the level of competition in diplomatic affairs. Even when cooperation is mutually preferred, wars are inevitable due to a coordination problem induced by costly peace. Competition over favorable peace settlements does not directly instigate attacks, but it reduces the gains from peace and makes inadvertent war less likely. The article offers new explanations for war, highlights the importance of institutional design in conflict resolution, and sheds light on which international orders are most likely to fare well over time.
Social structure matters for vote buying, yet most analyses do not account for interdependence between actors. We provide a formal model of elections in which candidates may offer private transfers to policy-motivated voters connected on a social network at the expense of a public good. Investigation of deep parameters governing social structure allows for comparison across societies. Contrary to much existing theory, equilibrium transfers are not determined by network density, but primarily by group fractionalization and homophily, while inequalities are driven by a disproportionate targeting of minorities. Additionally, we consider heterogeneous information between candidates, clarifying the role of density and demonstrating that homophily can endogenously generate in-group favoritism. Finally, we explore the role of network-dependent information flows with model simulations.