A Market for Sovereign Control

by Joseph Blocher & Mitu Gulati

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Abstract

Can popular sovereignty and sovereign territory coexist? Can countries exchange sovereign territory consistently with the principle of self-determination? What if countries’ rights to territorial integrity were predicated on corresponding duties to govern well? And can the international system provide mechanisms and incentives to improve the status quo?

These questions are not simply academic. Across the world, many regions are located in the wrong nations—wrong in the sense that the people of these regions believe they would be safer, happier, and wealthier if surrounded by different borders and governed by different leaders. Such people might be able to improve their lot by emigrating or voting out their current government, but those are imperfect solutions and are often unavailable to those who need them most. We ask how international law could help ameliorate the bad-government problem by facilitating welfare-enhancing border changes.

A Market for Sovereign Control

by Joseph Blocher & Mitu Gulati

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

Can popular sovereignty and sovereign territory coexist? Can countries exchange sovereign territory consistently with the principle of self-determination? What if countries’ rights to territorial integrity were predicated on corresponding duties to govern well? And can the international system provide mechanisms and incentives to improve the status quo?

These questions are not simply academic. Across the world, many regions are located in the wrong nations—wrong in the sense that the people of these regions believe they would be safer, happier, and wealthier if surrounded by different borders and governed by different leaders. Such people might be able to improve their lot by emigrating or voting out their current government, but those are imperfect solutions and are often unavailable to those who need them most. We ask how international law could help ameliorate the bad-government problem by facilitating welfare-enhancing border changes.