“Regime Proliferation and the Tragedy of the Global Institutional Commons” — Daniel Drezner


In recent years there has been a proliferation of international rules, laws and institutional forms in world politics. These trends have renewed attention to the role that forum-shopping and regime complexity play in shaping the patterns of global governance. A few policymakers, some international relations scholars, and many international law scholars posit that institutional proliferation will lead to a more rule-based world in world politics. This paper suggests a contrary position: institutional thickness has a paradoxical effect on global governance. After a certain point, proliferation shifts global governance structures from rule-based outcomes to power-based outcomes – because institutional proliferation erodes the causal mechanisms through which regimes ostensibly strengthen international cooperation. To demonstrate these effects, the paper examines two cases: the aftermath of the 2001 Doha Declaration on intellectual property rights and public health, and recent efforts to create an WMD interdiction regime that permits the boarding of ships on the high seas. These cases show that global governance structures possess little “viscosity”


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