Rising international trade flows are a primary component of
globalization. The liberalization of trade policy in many developing
countries has helped foster the growth of these flows. Preceding and
concurrent with this move to free trade, there has been a global
movement toward democracy. We argue that these two trends are related:
democratization of the political system reduces the ability of
governments to use trade barriers as a strategy for building political
support. Political leaders in labor-rich countries may prefer lower
trade barriers as democracy increases. Empirical evidence supports our
claim about the developing countries from 1970–99. Regime change
toward democracy is associated with trade liberalization, controlling
for many factors. Conventional explanations of economic reform, such as
economic crises and external pressures, seem less salient.
Democratization may have fostered globalization in this period.We wish to thank the editors at
International Organization, David Baldwin, Jim Fearon, Geoffrey
Garrett, Barbara Geddes, Tim Groseclose, Robert Kaufmann, Robert Keohane,
David Laitin, Jean Leca, Edward Mansfield, Jim Morrow, Ronald Rogowski, B.
Peter Rosendorff, Alex Segura, Mike Tomz, Robert Trager, Romain Wacziarg,
and Greg Wawro, for their very helpful comments on versions of this article.
We also received helpful comments from seminar participants at the University
of Michigan, Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Syracuse
University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Yale University, and
the University of California at Berkeley. Ben Judkins, Robert Trager, Megumi
Naoi, and Tom Kenyon provided invaluable research assistance. An earlier
version was presented at the 2001 APSA meeting in San Francisco.