Treaty Options: Towards a Behavioral Understanding of Treaty Design
University of Pennsylvania Law School
October 9, 2012
Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 53, p. 309 (2013)
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
Date posted: October 9, 2012 ; Last revised: May 22, 2013