Why do states choose multilateralism? We develop an argument focused on the burden-sharing versus control dilemma of principal-agent (PA) models. We also present two alternative theoretical frames that could explain this choice: a normative logic of appropriateness and hegemonic self binding. We examine the political bases of support for sending foreign aid through multilateral versus bilateral channels. First, we clarify the concept of multilateralism. We show that the choices for internationalism and multilateralism are distinct. Second, we develop hypotheses from each of the three theories and examine how public opinion data allow us to shed light on these different theories about multilateralism. Finally, we provide evidence about the correlates of public support for multilateral engagement. We isolate how two competing rationales—burden sharing and control—dictate some of the politics around the choice between multilateral versus bilateral aid channels. The data support our claim that a principal-agent model can help us to understand the choice for multilateralism.
In examining the diffusion of social and political phenomena like regime transition, conflict,
and policy change, scholars routinely make choices about how proximity is defined and which
neighbors should be considered more important than others. Since each specification offers an
alternative view of the networks through which diffusion can take place, one's decision can exert
a significant influence on the magnitude and scope of estimated diffusion effects. This problem is
widely recognized, but is rarely the subject of direct analysis. In international relations research,
connectivity choices are usually ad hoc, driven more by data availability than by theoretically informed
decision criteria. We take a closer look at the assumptions behind these choices, and
propose a more systematic method to asses the structural similarity of two or more alternative
networks, and select one that most plausibly relates theory to empirics. We apply this method
to the spread of democratic regime change, and offer an illustrative example of how neighbor
choices might impact predictions and inferences in the case of the 2011 Arab Spring.