Complexity, Environment, and Equitable Competition: A Theory of Adaptive International Rule Design

Posted: 15 Oct 2011 Last revised: 2 Oct 2017

See all articles by Michael P. Ilg

Michael P. Ilg

University of Calgary - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2011


This essay addresses the question of whether the regulation of international competition might be conceived of in a manner that better anticipates and adapts around fundamental and unforeseen challenges. This essay presents a theory of diversity as a potential solution to problems of international coordination caused by changed systemic assumptions of a type represented by global environmental degradation. The theme of diversity refers to the differentiation of individual competitive strategies, and builds upon this notion to articulate an ideal of group benefit that is consistent with individuality and furthered by self-interest. The systemic goal to be achieved is responsiveness to fundamental change, and the means of solutions is argued to lie in a regulatory system designed to encourage the utmost attempts at ongoing innovation.

The first advantage of diversity and differentiation is argued to be as a means of stable and adaptive progress; increasing the number of possible techniques with which to meet future challenges of a degree as presented by global environmental problems such as climate change. As the first principle of diversity entails a method for systemic responsiveness, the second principle gives content to this method by proposing that social goals should serve as the incentives encouraging competitors toward differentiation. The advantage offered is that social non-economic goals may be advanced in the present by looking to future adaptability, as individuals are encouraged toward new routes to personal reward via the satisfaction of collective objectives that previously had little or no economic value.

As the ideal of diversity contemplates a method of systemic incentives, rather than mandated outcomes, the location of innovation remains individual competitors. Accordingly, the ideal of diversity is justified and articulated from a basis in individuality. Diversity is argued to be the optimal set of principles which individuals would select if given the ability to design a new competitive system anew and as if in abstraction. In joining a method of differentiation with the added social content of non-economic priority, diversity offers a unique blend of economic efficiency and equity; or of self-interest and concern for the welfare of others. Diversity allows an individual to think of their own pursuit of gain, but also and simultaneously further collective goals by selecting the priorities that should influence competitors toward differentiation. Ultimately, other’s welfare becomes a route to individual success.

Suggested Citation

Ilg, Michael P., Complexity, Environment, and Equitable Competition: A Theory of Adaptive International Rule Design (October 14, 2011). Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 41, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Michael P. Ilg (Contact Author)

University of Calgary - Faculty of Law ( email )

Murray Fraser Hall
2500 University Dr. N.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4

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