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A Theory of Full International Cooperation

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  • Scott Barrett

Abstract

This paper develops a coherent theory of international cooperation relying on the twin assumptions of individual and collective rationality. Using a linear version of the N-player prisoner's dilemma game, I provide a formal proof of Olson's conjecture that only a `small' number of countries can sustain full cooperation by means of a self-enforcing agreement. Moreover, I find that this number is not fixed but depends on the nature of the cooperation problem; for some problems, three countries will be `too many', while for others even 200 countries will be a `small' number. In addition, I find that the international system is only able to sustain global cooperation - that is, cooperation involving 200 or so countries - by a self-enforcing treaty when the gains to cooperation are `small'. Finally, I find that the ability of the international system to sustain cooperation does not hinge on whether the compliance norm of customary international law has been internalized by states or whether compliance must instead be enforced by the use of treaty-based sanctions. The constraint on international cooperation is free-rider deterrence, not compliance enforcement.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Barrett, 1999. "A Theory of Full International Cooperation," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 11(4), pages 519-541, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:11:y:1999:i:4:p:519-541
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    Cited by:

    1. Jungcurt, Stefan, 2004. "The Politics of Incoherence: A Framework for the Analysis of Functional Overlap in International Governance as Two-Level Game," Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Discussion Papers 18841, Humboldt University Berlin, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    2. Trofimov, Ivan D., 2017. "International policy entrepreneurship and production of international public goods: the case of multilateral trade regime," MPRA Paper 80819, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:158:y:2018:i:c:p:103-112 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Fuhai Hong & Larry Karp, 2014. "International Environmental Agreements with Endogenous or Exogenous Risk," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(3), pages 365-394.
    5. Carlos Scartascini & Ernesto H. Stein & Mariano Tommasi, 2008. "Veto Players, Intertemporal Interactions and Policy Adaptability: How Do Political Institutions Work?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 3352, Inter-American Development Bank.
    6. Takashima, Nobuyuki, 2017. "International environmental agreements with ancillary benefits: Repeated games analysis," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 312-320.
    7. Michael Finus & Stefan Maus, 2008. "Modesty May Pay!," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(5), pages 801-826, October.
    8. Stine Aakre, 2016. "The political feasibility of potent enforcement in a post-Kyoto climate agreement," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 145-159, February.
    9. Eyckmans, Johan & Hagem, Cathrine, 2011. "The European Union's potential for strategic emissions trading through permit sales contracts," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 247-267, January.
    10. Stine Aakre, 2016. "The political feasibility of potent enforcement in a post-Kyoto climate agreement," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 145-159, February.
    11. Günther, Michael & Hellmann, Tim, 2015. "Local and Global Pollution and International Environmental Agreements in a Network Approach," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 545, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
    12. Asheim, Geir B. & Froyn, Camilla Bretteville & Hovi, Jon & Menz, Fredric C., 2006. "Regional versus global cooperation for climate control," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 93-109, January.
    13. Hsiao-Chi Chen & Shi-Miin Liu, 2017. "An Evolutionary Approach to International Environmental Agreements with Full Participation," RIEEM Discussion Paper Series 1702, Research Institute for Environmental Economics and Management, Waseda University.
    14. Scott Barrett & Robert Stavins, 2003. "Increasing Participation and Compliance in International Climate Change Agreements," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 3(4), pages 349-376, December.
    15. repec:spr:ieaple:v:17:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10784-017-9358-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Chen, Cuicui & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2018. "Collective action in an asymmetric world," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 103-112.
    17. Lee, Jiwon & Wittgenstein, Teresa, 2017. "Weak vs. Strong Ties: Explaining Early Settlement in WTO Disputes," ILE Working Paper Series 7, University of Hamburg, Institute of Law and Economics.
    18. Günther, Michael & Hellmann, Tim, 2017. "International environmental agreements for local and global pollution," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 38-58.
    19. Ana Espinola-Arredondo, 2009. "Free-Riding and Cooperation in Environmental Games," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 11(1), pages 119-158, February.
    20. Barrett, Scott, 2013. "Climate treaties and approaching catastrophes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 235-250.
    21. Leonhard Kähler & Klaus Eisenack, 2016. "Strategic Complements in International Environmental Agreements: a New Island of Stability," Working Papers V-393-16, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2016.
    22. repec:ksp:journ5:v:4:y:2017:i:4:p:473-501 is not listed on IDEAS

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