International Law and the Limits of Macroeconomic Cooperation

53 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2012

See all articles by Eric A. Posner

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Alan Sykes

Stanford University - Law School

Date Written: July 31, 2012


The macroeconomic policies of states can produce significant costs and benefits for other states, yet international macroeconomic cooperation has been one of the weakest areas of international law. We ask why states have had such trouble cooperating over macroeconomic issues, when they have been relatively successful at cooperation over other economic matters such as international trade. We argue that although the theoretical benefits of macroeconomic cooperation are real, in practice it is difficult to sustain because optimal cooperative policies are often uncertain and time variant, making it exceedingly difficult to craft clear rules for cooperation in many areas. It is also often difficult or impossible to design credible self-enforcement mechanisms. Recent cooperation on bank capital standards, the history of exchange rate cooperation, the European monetary union, and the prospects for broader monetary and fiscal cooperation are all discussed. We contrast the reasons for successful cooperation on international trade policy.

Suggested Citation

Posner, Eric A. and Sykes, Alan, International Law and the Limits of Macroeconomic Cooperation (July 31, 2012). University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 609, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 396, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 431, Available at SSRN: or

Eric A. Posner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)


Alan Sykes

Stanford University - Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics