Membership in the international community has always been dynamic, but it became much more so in the twentieth century as state ‘dismemberment’, ‘fusion’, and ‘resurrection’ increased. In raw numbers, system membership quadrupled from 45 to 195 states. There were 55 violent revolutions, 54 non-violent regime changes, and in the last 60 years alone 227 military coups occurred. In every case, new leaders or governments replaced the regimes formerly in power. Additionally, by some metrics as many as 67 members, approximately a third of all states, can be classified as failed or failing, unable to provide effective governance. In the contemporary world, states are being born, transforming and collapsing at a rapid pace. Yet amidst this change, there is a remarkable amount of agreement and consistency within the international community when it comes to matters of statehood and state personality. That is to say, most countries agree about which actors are and are not states, and which regimes are and are not the rightful governments of those states, most of the time. Traditionalist legal scholars might take this behavioral convergence as evidence of compliance with deeply held legal rules regarding statehood and legal personality or as a simple consequence of what is true, de facto. In contrast, a law and economics approach urges us to reconsider whether the force of legal obligation is the primary driver behind state behavior in these situations.
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