Cinderella Sovereignty

17 Pages Posted: 4 May 2017

See all articles by Anna Gelpern

Anna Gelpern

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: March 20, 2017


Joseph Blocher and Mitu Gulati propose an insightful and thought-provoking critique of the barriers to secession under public international law. The critique an important contribution in its own right. I wish it had not been eclipsed by the authors’ clever and provocative fix: turning sovereignty into a tradable commodity. I suspect that this fix would bring about more suffering than the status quo for two reasons. First, a market for sovereign control is unlikely to be a market in any meaningful sense. Therefore, trading sovereignty would not discipline oppressors. Second, should something like a real market materialize, it could diminish the incentives for states to treat their populations better just as plausibly as it could improve them. Distant empires could find it easier to traffic in oppressed people and territories, which would pass from state to state as their masters lose interest. A class of marginal client statelets would grow, endowed with a poor stepchild of sovereignty, which would leave their people defenseless and voiceless.

Keywords: International law, secession, market for control, sovereign debt

JEL Classification: F30, H81, K11, K33

Suggested Citation

Gelpern, Anna, Cinderella Sovereignty (March 20, 2017). Duke Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Anna Gelpern (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics