Most of my research is about how states negotiate agreements with each other. In particular I'm interested in situations where those agreements are riskier for some participants than others, and in how states manage agreements despite those unequal risks.
Negotiating International Organizations
Outside options matter, because they give parties to an agreement the ability to renegotiate the terms of the agreements after they've been implemented. When risks are unequal, institutional mechanisms that promote flexibility and easy exit can reduce the appeal of cooperation, since unequal dependence raises the risk that, once cooperation has begun, the less-dependent side will renegotiate terms to its advantage. So in those situations potentially-vulnerable states hold out, forgoing cooperation unless it comes with specific mechanisms to contrive symmetry, artificially enhancing the balance of outside options to favor the weaker side. In a book project, in progress, I begin with the negotiations in the 1940s-50s over international cooperation to regulate atomic energy and examine the development of the nonproliferation regime through the following 70 years.
Contrived Symmetry through the IAEA.
Working paper, focusing on the theory and a case study of the IAEA in the early 1950s.
China's Strategic Multilateralism
Coauthored with Scott Kastner and Margaret Pearson. We argue that the strategic setting of each major issue of global concern will influence whether and how China engages constructively in supporting multilateral regimes. Depending on China's exit options and the perception that Chinese contribution to governance might be indispensable, China will be more likely to invest in multilateral institutions, hold up cooperation as a way to secure more favorable terms for itself, or passively accept existing regimes while free-riding on their benefits.
China in Multilateral Governance, Security Studies 2016.
Introduces the argument.
China's Strategic Multilateralism, Cambridge University Press 2018.
More detail about the theory, and includes case studies of China's approach to Central Asian security, nuclear proliferation, international financial governance, and climate change.
Federations and National Reunification
States form federations when cooperation would lead them to make unequal investments, making some vulnerable to later renegotiation. Federal unions create contrived symmetry, which solves the contracting problem. States form international organizations when they fundamentally trust each other to refrain from future renegotiation (or when the potential downside of renegotiation is low) and form federations when they mistrust each other. Federations therefore occur when the only realistic alternative is a complete failure of cooperation; federations do not emerge in a linear way from international organizations.
Federations: The Political Dynamics of Cooperation, Cornell University Press 2009.
The struggles surrounding regional integration projects in Australia, Argentina, Germany, East Africa, and the Caribbean provide evidence for the argument. (Amazon. Ebook. Data used in chapters 3 and 4.)
South Korea’s Reunification Dilemmas, Asian Politics & Policy 2012. With Jai Kwan Jung.
Korea is unlikely to reunify by confederation. South Korea has, de facto, moved toward a strategy of absorbing the North rather than confederating with it
Pathways of National Reunification in Germany, Yemen, and Korea, Pacific Focus 2014, With Jai Kwan Jung.
Comparisons of German and Yemeni reunifications suggest that South Korea may be unable to credibly commit to a confederation-style agreement.
National Unification and Mistrust: Bargaining Power and the Prospects for a PRC/Taiwan Agreement, Security Studies 2008, With Scott Kastner.
The PRC's ability to make a plausible confederation offer to Taiwan is probably limited, as mainland China currently lacks the institutional features that would be necessary to make a confederation agreement credible even in principle.
Democratic Commitments are Not Always Credible: Abortion and German Reunification, Comparative European Politics 2016. With Elizabeth Jahr.
Democratic institutions can make the credibility problem worse, not better. After German reunification, Western leaders predictably reneged on a superficially-plausible commitment to preserve permissive abortion laws in the East.
Capital Controls in Developed Democracies
International Regimes, Domestic Veto-Players, and Capital Controls Policy Stability. International Studies Quarterly 2003.
Parliamentary veto players and government ideology correlate with policy changes before the mid-1980s; after that systemic constraints tighten.
Partisanship and the Path to Financial Openness. Comparative Political Studies 2005.
European states were more likely to liberalize financial controls soon after changing from left to right governments.
Other projects that were fun but unconnected to my main interests.
The Rationalization of Political Corruption. Public Integrity 2015, with Allen Gannett.
Public officials who are likely to have committed corrupt acts rationalize their behavior in different ways than business people, maybe. Data archive.
Buying Treaties with Cigarettes: Internal Side-payments in Two-level Games. International Interactions 2001.
Domestic divisions over foreign policy matter most when veto groups are relatively unified over other salient issues, suggesting that the "Schelling conjecture" may be less consequential than sometimes thought.
Getting There is Half the Battle.
Military mobilization sinks costs in war, raising the mobilizing state's demands.