Authoritarian Populism and Burden-Sharing in the Transatlantic Community

Becker, Jordan, Authoritarian Populism and Burden-Sharing in the Transatlantic Community (February 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3531703 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3531703


While the causes and consequences of populism have drawn much attention from researchers, transatlantic burden-sharing captivates not only scholars, but populist politicians themselves. A populist President in the United States has called for significant changes in the way the U.S. leads, focusing on burden-sharing as a bone of contention with allies; Turkey is at odds with its Western partners; the UK is on the brink of leaving the EU; and illiberal parties who question the utility of the institutional architecture that has ordered European politics for 70 years have made significant electoral gains. More than just a defense economics question, burden-sharing is at the core of hierarchy and order in the transatlantic community. Yet no research to date has empirically analyzed the relationship between populism in national politics and burden-sharing. I find that the higher the share of seats in a state’s parliament held by populist parties, the less that state spends on agreed priorities for collective defense. In short, populist politics is associated with adverse burden-sharing outcomes in the transatlantic community. This finding suggests that the strategic effects of populism extend beyond probabilities of conflict and cooperation and into alliance burden-sharing politics and grand strategy.