Democratic Commitments

Democratic Commitments: Legislatures and International Cooperation

Lisa L. Martin
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Democratic Commitments
    Book Description:

    From the refusal of the U.S. Congress to approve fast-track trade authority and certain foreign aid packages to the obstacles placed by Western European parliaments in the path of economic integration, legislatures often interfere with national leaders' efforts to reach and implement predictable international agreements. This seems to give an advantage to dictators, who can bluff with confidence and make decisions without consultation, and many assume that even democratic governments would do better to minimize political dissent and speak foreign policy from a single mouth. In this thoughtful, empirically grounded challenge to the assumption that messy domestic politics undermine democracies' ability to conduct international relations, Lisa Martin argues that legislatures--and particularly the apparently problematic openness of their proceedings--actually serve foreign policy well by giving credibility to the international commitments that are made.

    Examining the American cases of economic sanctions, the use of executive agreements versus treaties, and food assistance, in addition to the establishment of the European Union, Martin concludes that--if institutionalized--even rancorous domestic conversations between executives and legislatures augment rather than impede states' international dealings. Such interactions strengthen and legitimize states' bargaining positions and international commitments, increasing their capacity to realize international cooperation. By expanding our comprehension of how domestic politics affect international dialogue, this work is a major advance in the field of international relations and critical reading for those who study or forge foreign policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2370-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    Credibility of commitments is a persistent problem in international politics. The forms of international cooperation that offer states the highest benefits require them to make credible commitments to one another. States that lack the capacity for commitment cannot achieve many potential gains from economic exchange. They find it difficult to keep the peace and to reestablish peace after wars. Without commitment, mutual distrust confines cooperative endeavors to the most shallow and least risky, as states will be reluctant to undertake actions that involve any degree of irreversibility or sunk costs. Commitment is the keystone of international politics, as it is...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Theoretical Framework: Legislatures, Executives, and Commitment
    (pp. 21-52)

    Processes of representation and policymaking in democracies engage organized legislatures. But on foreign-policy issues, executives rather than legislators directly negotiate with other countries. The degree to which legislatures can, or should, influence such negotiations remains the subject of deep controversy. This study is designed to explain variation in legislative influence and its effects on international cooperation, via the mechanism of credibility. Drawing on modern treatments of legislative organization, legislative-executive relations, and institutions as commitment devices, as well as the empirical work in this book, I make a twofold argument. First, theory and evidence suggest that legislative influence on international bargaining...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Institutions and Influence: Executive Agreements and Treaties
    (pp. 53-80)

    Modern theories of legislative-executive interaction suggest that the scope for legislative influence over policy is greater than is often appreciated in studies of foreign policy. The logic behind this proposition lies in the executive’s ability and incentives to anticipate legislative reactions to policy decisions, and in indirect mechanisms of influence available to legislators. The major project of this book is to extend the logic of anticipated reactions and indirect legislative influence to the realm of international cooperation and foreign policy. Establishing the potential for indirect legislative influence, as specified in the Influence Hypothesis, requires that we confront the null hypothesis:...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Economic Sanctions: Domestic Conflict of Interest and International Cooperation
    (pp. 81-111)

    Core hypotheses tested in this book involve the degree to which national legislatures influence processes of international cooperation and the ways in which institutionalized legislative participation in cooperative processes enhances the level of cooperation achieved. Systematic study of economic sanctions imposed by the United States provides direct tests of both the Delegation and Cooperation Hypotheses. Since sanctions have been imposed under conditions of both divided and unified government, and since they originate in either Congress or the executive branch, these cases provide the necessary variation on the explanatory variables to test propositions about both influence and international cooperation. So beyond...

  8. CHAPTER 5 U.S. Food-Aid Policy: The Politics of Delegation and Linkage
    (pp. 112-146)

    As a major component of U.S. foreign assistance since the mid-1950s, the food-aid program has been subject to remarkably well-contained debates, escaping the frequent public clashes and negative public opinion that follow other forms of economic and development assistance (Wallensteen 1976, 289). In large part, the relatively strong public support for food assistance comes from its overtly humanitarian character. Food aid goes directly to alleviate hunger and starvation overseas, at least as typically portrayed. However, as this chapter will demonstrate, the motivations and consequences of food aid are more complex than this simple humanitarian motive suggests. In fact, precisely because...

  9. CHAPTER 6 National Parliaments and European Integration: Institutional Choice in EU Member States
    (pp. 147-163)

    This book makes general arguments about the role of legislatures in stable democracies. The analytical framework used draws on models primarily developed in the U.S. context, and the previous three empirical chapters have focused on the U.S. Congress. To what extent does this framework help us to understand the dynamics of legislative involvement in international cooperation outside the United States, particularly in a parliamentary context? To answer this question, this chapter and the next turn to examining the member states of the European Union. They focus on the influence that national parliaments have on the process of European integration. In...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Implementing the EU’s Internal Market: The Influence of National Parliaments
    (pp. 164-189)

    Chapter 6 demonstrated that the institutions created by national parliaments to structure their interactions with governments on EU business respond in a regular manner to incentives to constrain government negotiators. As conflict over European integration has increased in the 1990s, parliaments have developed stronger institutions in an attempt to more tightly constrain governments. In addition, parliamentary committees are strongest in those states with the most conflict of interest about European integration. The Delegation Hypothesis is supported in the member states of the EU. However, the previous chapter did not turn to the next, probably more important, question of whether stronger...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 190-202)

    States that wish to cooperate with one another must be able to make credible commitments. While studies of international cooperation have focused on the systemic conditions for commitment, scholars also believe that domestic factors have an impact on the capacity for credible commitments. But few studies have attempted to generalize about the domestic conditions for commitment. This book has concentrated on how variation in the role of the legislature in stable democracies influences patterns of commitment and cooperation.

    Legislatures come to our attention since they often seem to interfere with states’ attempts to reach and implement reliable, predictable international agreements....

  12. References
    (pp. 203-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-225)