Chicago Journal of International Law


This Comment explores how exchanging in smaller, interdependent units of entitlement during treaty negotiation helps build consensus for large treaty regimes and creates incentives for maintaining stable, cooperative relationships in the long run. The existing literature related to this topic takes three approaches. Prior literature on the concept of equity has focused mostly on the division problem: how to allocate indivisible goods and how to create a proportionality or prioritization system that appeals to parties' intuitive understandings of fairness. Prior economics and game theory literature has largely focused on explaining how cooperation and coalitions affect the feasibility of discrete transactions, such as spot contracts. Prior literature on international law tends to limit itself to political analysis on how issue linkages have facilitated consensus during treaty negotiations. This Comment tries to link these three approaches together to explain the economic incentives behind a general international phenomenon: the tendency to negotiate in more narrowly defined entitlements (smaller units) to build consensus for ambitious, comprehensive treaties that stretch over several regulatory regimes (greater interdependence). This approach differs from earlier approaches in equity literature because it proposes that parties want more than fair division from a discrete transaction. It differs from previous approaches in contract theory because the parties in focus here are states, who all have incentives to create agreements for the long-term5 and institutionalize norms that incentivize cooperation. It differs in focus from prior literature in international law in that it tries to generalize a larger economic principle behind why linkages help treaties succeed.