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An Experimental Contribution to the Theory of Customary (International) Law

  • Christoph Engel

    ()

    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

In their majority, public international lawyers postulate that for a new rule of customary law to originate, two conditions must be fulfilled: there must be consistent practice, and it must be shown that this practice is motivated by the belief that such behaviour is required in law. Maurice Mendelson (Recueil des Cours 272 (1998) 155) has challenged this view. He believes that the majority view ignores the fundamentally incomplete nature of public international law. He claims that the new rule emerges because mere practice leads to convergent expectations. This paper uses data from student experiments with a linear public good to show that behaviour con-verges even absent verbal communication; that convergence is guided by mean contributions in the previous round, which serve as an implicit norm; that freeriding on this implicit norm is re-garded as illegitimate; that cooperation can be stabilised at a high level if “reprisals” are permitted. Hence the mechanism of norm formation proposed by Maurice Mendelson is fully borne out by the experimental data.

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Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2010_13.

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Date of creation: Apr 2010
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Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2010_13
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  1. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gachter, 2010. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 541-56, March.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Nikiforakis, Nikos, 2008. "Punishment and counter-punishment in public good games: Can we really govern ourselves," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 91-112, February.
  4. Keohane, Robert O, 2002. "Rational Choice Theory and International Law: Insights and Limitations," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages S307-19, January.
  5. Jennifer Zelmer, 2003. "Linear Public Goods Experiments: A Meta-Analysis," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 299-310, November.
  6. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  7. Rosenthal, Robert W., 1981. "Games of perfect information, predatory pricing and the chain-store paradox," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 92-100, August.
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