Bordering on Peace: Democracy, Territorial Issues, and Conflict


  • Author’s note: Thanks to Mike Desch, Rich Fording, Matt Gabel, Marc Hutchison, Toby Rider, and Scott Wolford for comments on earlier drafts and especially to Kirk Randazzo for numerous discussions on methodology. Thanks also to Paul Huth and Todd Allee for sharing their data and to Paul Hensel, Adam Przeworski, and Bruce Russett and John Oneal for making their data publicly available. Unfortunately, I cannot hold anyone else responsible for the errors that remain. Replication data for the analyses in this article can be found at: and at


I argue that democracy and peace are both symptoms—not causes—of the removal of territorial issues between neighbors, and in this sense the “empirical law” of democratic peace may in fact be spurious. As democracies tend to stabilize their border relations prior to becoming democratic, democracy as an independent variable in conflict studies captures the effects of an absence of territorial issues. States without these issues are less prone to disputes prior to regime type, and I show that, after controlling for the presence of stable borders, joint democracy exercises no pacifying effect on conflict behavior from 1946 to 1999.