Cui Bono? Business Elites and Interstate Conflict
We address how regime supporters affect war-making by re-opening a classic debate on business elites and their influence on states' conflict behavior. Imperialist theories contend that business elites encourage executives to undertake military expeditions to "open up" foreign markets, while "capitalist peace" arguments emphasize that business elites have economic incentives to work for peace. We synthesize these arguments and propose that countries become more belligerent, in general, when business elites enter regime support coalitions, but not towards other business-supported regimes. We use recently compiled data on social groups in regime support coalitions, covering 200 polities across 1789-2018, to test implications of our argument. We find that business-supported regimes are more likely to initiate armed conflict, but not against other countries with business-elite supported regimes. We also find support for additional implications, for instance pertaining to how the belligerence of business-supported regimes depends on existing trade relationships.
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