Articles and Posts from ISQ

1 Dictatorships & International Cooperation

In “Autocracies and International Cooperation,” Mattes & Rodriguez provide an important contribution to the literature on domestic political institutions and international cooperation, arguing that some dictatorships are as good at cooperation as their democratic counterparts. They argue that the domestic institutions found to be beneficial for cooperation between democracies can also encourage international cooperation between dictatorships. Because single-party dictatorships have institutions that generate accountability, policy-making consistency, and transparency, they are likely to be advantaged at international cooperation compared to personalist dictatorships, which lack these characteristics.

In their empirical analysis, Mattes & Rodriguez use a regime typology originally created by Barbara Geddes and recently updated in Geddes et al. (2013). Using this typology, Mattes & Rodriguez investigate the international cooperation behavior of democracies as compared to single-party dictatorships, military dictatorships, and personalist dictatorships, arguing that the domestic mechanisms encouraging international cooperation in democracies—leader accountability, policy flexibility, and transparency—are more prevalent in single-party dictatorships than their personalist counterparts.

Although Mattes & Rodriguez find in support of their main hypothesis and add to our understanding of how domestic institutions influence international cooperation, their results do not allow us to distinguish between the causal mechanisms suggested in their paper—accountability of leaders to domestic groups (e.g., Weeks 2008), policy-making flexibility (e.g., Ezrow & Frantz 2011), and transparency of the regime (e.g., Peceny & Butler 2004). Future work on this topic could make use of other recent data on dictatorial institutions—like legislatures and parties (e.g., Cheibub et al. 2010) and domestic courts (e.g., Linzer & Staton 2011)—to shed additional light on the domestic institutions that facilitate international cooperation.

2 Dictatorial Institutions & International Cooperation

As an example of such an analysis, I modified the replication data provided by Mattes & Rodriguez. My dependent variable—the Goldstein (1992) Cooperation Scale—is based on the 10 Million International Dyadic Events data from 1990 to 2004 and came directly from Mattes & Rodriguez’s replication data.

The independent variables in my model differ from those used by Mattes & Rodriguez. Instead of using the typology of regime type from Geddes et al. (2012) to generate dyads, I use two alternative classifications of countries as my key independent variables. First, using the LPARTY variable from Cheibub et al. (2010), I created three dummy variables. NO LEGISLATURE is coded 1 when there is no legislature, or all of the parties in the legislature are nonpartisan (i.e., when LPARTY = 0) and 0 otherwise. REGIME LEGISLATURE is coded 1 when there is a legislature with only members from the regime party (i.e., when LPARTY is coded 1) and 0 otherwise. MULTIPARTY LEGISLATURE is coded 1 when there is a legislature with multiple parties (i.e., when LPARTY is coded 2) and 0 otherwise. Based on these variables, I created variables based on the classification of each country in a given dyad: NO LEGISLATURE - NO LEGISLATURE DYAD, REGIME LEGISLATURE - REGIME LEGISLATURE DYAD, MULTIPARTY LEGISLATURE - MULTIPARTY LEGISLATURE DYAD, as well as all the other combinations thereof. MULTIPARTY LEGISLATURE - MULTIPARTY LEGISLATURE DYAD is the reference category in the models below.

Second, I used a measure of judicial effectiveness from Linzer & Staton (2011). Linzer & Staton use a heteroskedastic graded response IRT model to combine information from eight existing measures to create a latent measure the judicial effectiveness. The final continuous measure ranges from 0 to 1, where higher values on the scale indicate higher levels of effective- ness. I created four binary measures of judicial effectiveness by using cutpoints at the quartile: VERY EFFECTIVE COURT, EFFECTIVE COURT, INEFFECTIVE COURT, VERY INEFFECTIVE COURT. As above, I created dyadic variables based on the classification of each country and its potential partner. VERY EFFECTIVE COURT - VERY EFFECTIVE COURT DYAD is the reference category in the models below.

Following Mattes & Rodriguez, I estimated a Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) model and included controls for distance, major power status, dyad wealth, dyad stability, and dyadic alliance ties. The results using Legislature Composition as the main independent variable are shown in Table 1, and the results using Judicial Effectiveness as the main independent variable are shown in Table 2. Note that these empirical results are only intended as illustrative.


In Table 1, nearly every combination of potential cooperation partners (as defined by their legislative structure) is statistically less likely than two countries with multiparty legislatures to engage in international cooperation. Based on previous work on domestic institutions and international cooperation (including that of Mattes & Rodriguez) this is perhaps unsurprising. But there is one exception. Two countries, each with no legislature, are more likely (p<0.10) to cooperate internationally than two countries, each having a multiparty legislature. Although these results should be taken with several grains of salt, they can potentially provide fodder for future theorizing about the relationship between domestic legislatures and international cooperation.

Perhaps more interesting are the results about the effect of judicial effectiveness on international cooperation shown in Table 2. As compared to dyads where both countries have a very effective domestic court, only dyads where one country has a very effective court and the other has an effective court are equally likely to cooperate. As soon as both countries have effective courts, and especially when one of the countries has an ineffective court, dyads are significantly less likely to cooperate than dyads where both countries have very effective courts. Although these results are intended as merely illustrative, disaggregating domestic institutions in this way may help us to better understand the mechanisms influencing international cooperation.


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