British Journal of Political Science

Research Article

Costly Adjustments, Markets and International Reassurance

Johannes Urpelainen*


Two leaders engaged in international co-operation must each build trust by credibly signalling that they will not exploit the other by defecting at the implementation stage. Previous research does not reveal the difficulty and cost of such international reassurance. The role that costly adjustments by markets play in international reassurance is analysed, showing that fully efficient information revelation can be achieved when market actors under intense competitive pressures undergo sufficiently costly adjustments in expectation of international co-operation. ‘Nice’ leaders can reveal their true preferences simply by saying they intend to co-operate, because ‘mean’ leaders are unwilling to mislead market actors into undergoing futile costly adjustments. However, market imperfections prevent full information revelation unless market actors prefer international co-operation to the status quo.

(Online publication March 06 2012)


* Department of Political Science, Columbia University (email: The author wishes to thank Leonardo Baccini, Terry Chapman, Yoram Haftel, Yotam Margalit, Krzysztof Pelc, Paul Poast, Dustin Tingley, Scott Wolford, and a seminar audience at Princeton University for valuable insights.