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Interest or ideology? Why American business leaders opposed the Vietnam War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2022

Alexander Kirss*
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA
*
Corresponding author: Alexander Kirss, Email: arvk717@gmail.com

Abstract

Why do business leaders support or oppose interstate wars? This article clarifies and empirically illustrates two competing perspectives on the sources of business war preferences: the opinions businesses have about interstate conflict. Namely, while an “economic consequences” perspective argues that business war preferences stem primarily from the economic effects of interstate conflicts, a “leader ideology” perspective predicts that business leaders’ domestic policy preferences and political ideology will determine their war preferences. I reexamine historical survey data on American business leaders’ opinions about the Vietnam War using item response theory scaling and regression analysis and find support for both perspectives. These results point toward the importance of further theoretical and empirical research on the sources of business war preferences, so I propose a structured, forward-looking research agenda on business war preferences based on different conceptualizations of businesses, their motivations, and the consequences of interstate conflicts.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of V.K. Aggarwal

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Footnotes

I thank the editors of Business and Politics and two anonymous reviewers for their incredibly detailed and helpful feedback on this article. I greatly appreciate the support of my friends and colleagues Robert Cantelmo, Miles M. Evers, Alex Yu-Ting Lin, and Elizabeth (Bit) Meehan, who read and commented on numerous early versions of this article. Finally, I thank my dissertation committee at George Washington University—Charles Glaser, Yonatan Lupu, and Adam Dean—whose unwavering support and encouragement, despite their initial skepticism, helped bring this project to fruition.

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