Comparing the Spread of Capitalism and Democracy

January 1, 2012

The authors apply Leeson and Dean’s (2009) method for studying democratic dominoes to capitalist spillovers to compare the rates at which capitalism and democracy spread between countries. They find that capitalism and democracy spread at approximately the same modest rate.

Find the full article at Science Direct.

Contagious Capitalism

March 31, 2010

In their 2009 article in American Journal of Political Science, Leeson and Dean empirically examined the democratic domino theory and found that while democratic dominos fall as this theory contends, they fall significantly "lighter" than the theory’s importance and influence suggest. Using their approach, this paper asks whether capitalism is also contagious and, if it is, whether it spreads more strongly or weakly than democracy. We find that capitalism spreads more strongly than democracy but that its spread rate is similar. This similarity suggests that changes in underlying "meta-institutions," such as culture, may ultimately drive changes in both political and economic institutions and explains why political and economic dominoes fall with similar "heft."

Citation (Chicago Style)
Leeson, Peter, Russell Sobel, and Andrea Dean. "Contagious Capitalism." Working Paper, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2010.

The Democratic Domino Theory

July 15, 2009

According to the democratic domino theory, increases or decreases in democracy in one country spread and "infect" neighboring countries, increasing or decreasing their democracy in turn. Using spatial econometrics and panel data that covers over 130 countries between 1850 and 2000, this paper empirically investigates the democratic domino theory. It finds that democratic dominoes do in fact fall as the theory contends. However, these dominoes fall significantly "lighter" than the importance of this model suggests. Countries "catch" only about 11 percent of the increases or decreases in their average geographic neighbors' increases or decreases in democracy. This finding has potentially important foreign policy implications. The "lightness" with which democratic dominoes fall suggests that even if foreign military intervention aimed at promoting democracy in undemocratic countries succeeds in democratizing these nations, intervention is likely to have a only a small effect on democracy in their broader regions.

Read the article at Wiley Online Library.

Citation (Chicago Style): Leeson, Peter T. and Andrea Dean. "The Democratic Domino Theory." American Journal of Political Science 53, no. 3 (2009): 533-551.