Economic Analysis of International Law

Economic Analysis of International Law

Edited by Eugene Kontorovich and Francesco Parisi

Through original and incisive contributions from leading scholars, this book applies economics and other rational choice methods to understanding public international law. The chapters cover a range of topics, from the sources of international law to means of enforcement. The application of economic analysis to public international law is still in its early stages, and Economic Analysis of International Law provides a useful overview, as well as setting directions for new research.

Chapter 4: The economic analysis of international treaty law

Francesco Parisi and Daniel Pi

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, law - academic, law and economics, public international law


Until the beginning of the twenty-first century, economic analysis of international law was a lamentable rarity, despite the ever-growing influence of law and economics in most other subject-areas of legal scholarship (Dunoff and Trachtman 1999). At least two factors potentially contributed to this unfortunate circumstance. First, international law scholars may have been unfamiliar with the tools used by law and economics scholars, raising a methodological barrier. Second, the normative, political, and doctrinal nature of traditional international law scholarship may have misled law and economics scholars into believing that international law was a too informal, impenetrable or otherwise unfruitful subject for economic analysis. Recent researches happily find that neither of these prejudices were justified. In this chapter, we review some approaches to international treaty law from an economic perspective, offering critical commentary and extensions to those approaches along the way. In Section I, we lay out some of the basic background material on treaty law. In Section II, we discuss the signaling function of treaties. In Section III, we discuss treaty formation and accession. In Section IV, we consider the evolution of treaty law over time, giving particular attention to the issues of ratification and fragmentation. Finally, in Section V, we summarize the results of the chapter and identify areas where further research is needed. The principles of modern treaty law are enumerated in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (the ‘Vienna Convention’).

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