Treaty Options: Towards a Behavioral Understanding of Treaty Design

by Jean Galbraith ~ Mar 20, 2013

     Rational choice theory is the dominant paradigm through which scholars of international law and international relations approach treaty design. In this Article, I suggest a different approach 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 the framing of treaty options matters powerfully — 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.


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