Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kelley & Pevehouse: An Opportunity Cost Theory of US Treaty Behavior

Judith Kelley (Duke Univ. - Political Science) & Jon Pevehouse (Univ. of Wisconsin - Political Science) have posted An Opportunity Cost Theory of US Treaty Behavior. Here's the abstract:
What factors influence whether the US participates in global treaty-based cooperation? Traditional explanations hold that states act based on their national interest and, for the US this means that as long as two-thirds of senators are convinced that the benefits of the treaty outweigh the costs, the US should participate in the treaty. However, at times the US fails to join treaties that appear to have the support of the requisite 2/3 of senators, or even quite uncontroversial treaties. This has long ago earned the senate a reputation as “the graveyard of treaties.” This paper argues that this occurs because the constitutional advice and consent process imposes opportunity costs for both the president and the senate in terms of senate floor time, and that these costs slow down the process significantly or even block it completely. A statistical analysis of all multilateral treaties after 1967 shows that while, as expected, the traditional political and treatyspecific factors influence a treaty’s success in the senate, so do opportunity cost. This means that the president and the senate do not simply consider each treaty on its own merits; rather treaties may be sidelined due to the opportunity costs associated with dealing with them.