Chicago Journal of International Law


Many conservatives (at the least the subset who are classical liberals) approve of global multilateral trade agreements and allied agreements that keep global capital markets open. Conservatives, however, tend to be openly skeptical of other global multilateral agreements, be they environmental accords, human rights conventions, military pacts, or an agreement on an international criminal court. In this paper I offer the beginnings of a framework of sound political economy that justifies these divergent intuitions and shows that they are rooted in more than just a reflexive liking for trade combined with a disdain for the environment, human rights, criminal justice, and world peace. I begin with an important caveat. This paper offers an account of global multilateralism at a necessarily high level of generality, given the space limitations for the essays in this collection. It does not seek to defend or critique the actual operation of particular global multilateral treaties, although it occasionally uses some treaties as examples. Specifically, it does not defend the particular structure of the World Trade Organization ("WTO") or criticize particular environmental or human rights treaties. I also recognize that the guidelines it offers for global multilateralism may be too pristine for the world of practical politics where compromise is frequently necessary. But before we begin the necessary task of compromising, it is useful to get our theoretical baselines right. This paper thus presents a sketch of what a Kantian would call "a regulatory ideal"-a model by which we should inform the concrete practices of global multilateralism.