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Treaty Options: Towards a Behavioral Understanding of Treaty Design


Jean Galbraith


University of Pennsylvania Law School

October 9, 2012

Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 53, p. 309 (2013)

Abstract:     
Rational choice theory is the dominant paradigm through which scholars of international law and international relations approach treaty design. In this Article, I challenge this paradigm using a combination of empirical observations of state behavior and theoretical insights from behavioral economics. I focus on one aspect of multilateral treaty design: namely, treaty reservations and associated legal mechanisms which allow states to vary the degree of their formal commitments to treaties. I call these mechanisms “treaty options”. I argue that framing matters powerfully for treaty options – and does so in ways inconsistent with rational choice theory but consistent with insights from behavioral economics. This finding has important implications for the theory, law, and practice of treaty-making and for our understandings of state behavior more generally.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: international law, treaties, reservations

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Date posted: October 9, 2012 ; Last revised: May 22, 2013

Suggested Citation

Galbraith, Jean, Treaty Options: Towards a Behavioral Understanding of Treaty Design (October 9, 2012). Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 53, p. 309 (2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2159244

Contact Information

Jean Galbraith (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
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