Governing guns, opposing opium: The politics of internationally regulated goods

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Contrary to the general trend of trade liberalization, specific goods--such as small arms, drugs and antiquities--have come under increasing international control in recent decades through a set of international regulatory agreements. The motivation for international regulation has been the negative externalities that these goods involve, such as fatalities and refugee flows stemming from rampant gun violence, crime associated with widespread drug abuse, and archaeological destruction caused by antiquities looting. Yet despite the severity of the problems it addresses, international regulation has been extremely controversial. The dissertation seeks to account for the highly-divergent preferences of governments over the extent of--and even need for--the international control of these goods. I argue that governments that face the trade's negative effects upon their own countries favor strong international regulation. So do governments that are concerned about secondary externalities--the trade's negative effects on foreign countries. Concern about secondary externalities may result from pressure of principled actors committed to worldwide suppression of trade that they deem harmful. Pro-regulation governments, however, meet with resistance from governments guarding the interests of exporters or consumers who wish to maintain the trade uncontrolled. Given the absence of shared interest in cooperation, the resulting international regulation typically reflects the preferences of the powerful actors. Empirically, the dissertation examines the international regulation of small arms and antiquities as well as the international efforts against human trafficking. The small arms chapter tests the theoretical model of cross-national preference variation using original survey data, gathered through interviews with officials from 118 countries. The antiquities chapter explains why the United States has supported the international regulation of antiquities since the late 1960s, to the benefit of foreign countries facing archaeological plunder and to the detriment of the US art market. The chapter also explores why Britain reversed its long-standing opposition to international antiquities regulation in the early 2000s. The human trafficking chapter investigates the origins of the American worldwide efforts against human trafficking since 2000. The chapter also examines how the American pressure motivated the Israeli government to curb sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The dissertation concludes with implications for international relations, for international law and for policy.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 0398:Law
  • 0615:Political science
  • 0616:International law
  • Antiquities
  • Human trafficking
  • International cooperation
  • International law
  • Law
  • Political science
  • Regulation
  • Small arms
  • Social sciences
  • Trade

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  • Asif Efrat

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