The Power of Legitimacy among Nations

The Power of Legitimacy among Nations

The Power of Legitimacy among Nations

The Power of Legitimacy among Nations

Synopsis

Although there is no international government, and no global police agency enforces the rules, nations obey international law. In this provocative study, Franck employs a broad range of historical, legal, sociological, anthropological, political, and philosophical modes of analysis to unravel the mystery of what makes states and people perceive rules as legitimate. Demonstrating that virtually all nations obey most rules nearly all of the time, Franck reveals that the more legitimate laws and institutions appear to be, the greater is their capacity for compliance. Distilling those factors which increase the perception of legitimacy, he shows how a community of rules can be fashioned from a system of sovereign states without creating a global leviathan.

Excerpt

Determinacy is a literary characteristic of rule texts and of rules; it is about transparency. It denotes a rule's clarity of meaning: how effectively it communicates with the parties to a dispute. It also denotes the extent to which the rule's communicative power exerts its own dynamic pull toward compliance, which may not always correlate with its textual clarity.

We have noted, with regret--because it would have simplified matters were it otherwise--that the determinacy of a rule is not simply a textual property; nor is it solely a consequence of the literary form in which it is cast. Although very clear rules constructed around quantitative standards ("2500-meter isobath") and binary categories ("red light to port, green light to starboard") give the appearance of readly accessible determinacy, this can be misleading. If a simple, straightforward norm--we have used the term "idiot rule"--produces what is generally perceived as an incoherent, unfair, or absurd result when it is applied to a real, or even an anticipated, situation, then those to whom the rule is directed-- and whose voluntary compliance is evidence of its legitimacy--may not feel much pull to comply. They may instead decide that an absurd result could not have been intended and will ignore or reinterpret the rule. Even the mere expectation that states will ignore or reinterpret a rule can undermine its capacity to command vol-

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