Strategic Enforcement: Results from an Elite Survey Experiment on International Trade Agreements
32 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 20, 2012
Central to international cooperation in many issue-areas is enforcement: the act or process of compelling obedience to international agreements by force or persuasion. Whether focused on transaction costs, domestic politics or forces such as structure and culture, most explanations for states’ preferences for institutionalized enforcement mechanisms are anchored in the useful simplifying assumption that decision-makers (and thus bureaucracies and states) have advanced strategic reasoning skills that allow them to anticipate the incentives and actions of other players down long decision trees. That scholarship also usually assumes that decision makers are fairly homogenous in the employment of these skills that affect how they analyze and respond to complex chains of reasoning. Yet there is evidence from behavioral economics and cognitive psychology that people are neither hyper-rational nor homogenous in their strategic reasoning. If policymakers are not in fact all highly (and equally) strategic reasoners, then perhaps the variance in their skills could help explain deviations from international cooperation models and provide new insight into debates over enforcement. We explore how variations in strategic reasoning might affect preferences for cooperation under different enforcement conditions with a series of experiments and surveys on 85 current and former U.S. government officials and U.S. based business strategists working in companies exposed to international policy decisions. Our central finding is that the strategic qualities of the people tasked with actually making international trade cooperation decisions help to explain their preferences for the enforcement design of the agreement. Specifically, as decision makers become more skilled in their ability to reason strategically, they become more indifferent to enforcement when deciding whether or not to join an international trade agreement.
Keywords: survey, experiment, international trade, enforcement, elites
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