Beiträge zur Jahrestagung des Vereins für Socialpolitik 2020: Gender Economics
Many situations in the social and economic life are characterized by rivalry and conflict between two or more competing groups. Warfare, socio-political conflicts, political elections, lobbying, and R&D competitions are all examples of inter-group conflicts in which groups spend scarce and costly resources to gain an advantage over other groups. Here, we report on an experiment that investigates the impact of political institutions within groups on the development of conflict between groups. We find that relative to the case in which group members can decide individually on their level of conflict engagement, conflict significantly intensifies when investments are determined democratically by voting or when a single group member (the dictator) can decide on behalf of the group. These results hold for both symmetric and asymmetric contests, as well as for situations in which institutions are adopted exogenously or endogenously. Our findings thus suggest that giving people the possibility to vote is not the main reason for why democracies seem to engage in less wars than autocracies. Nevertheless, when giving participants the possibility to choose which institution to adopt, we find that democracy is the by far most popular one as it combines the desirable features of autonomy and equality.
Conflict competition institutions democracy groups experiment