Review Essay: The Antiglobalisation Paradox – Freedom to Enter into Binding International Law is Real Freedom

Review of Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy



In The Globalization Paradox, Dani Rodrik sets up what he calls a policy trilemma among hyperglobalisation, democracy and autonomy. This trilemma is best understood as a trade-off between national autonomy and rules that promote globalisation. However, a contractual perspective on international law – recognising that states use international law to make exchanges of policy autonomy in ways that enhance each consenting state's welfare – suggests that there is no real trade-off between national autonomy and international legal rules that promote globalisation. The antiglobalisation paradox is that these rules of international law may be seen as an expression of national autonomy. There is no trilemma, and even the trade-off between national autonomy and globalisation must be understood instead as a trade-off between two ways of promoting national welfare: one through autarchy and the other through international legal exchange. It then becomes apparent that a bias in favour of autarchy is mistaken, as it inappropriately limits the ways in which governments may promote national welfare. Furthermore, international law does not necessarily need, at the international level, the same types of mechanisms for democratic accountability that are required at the national level, because states consent to international law through their national democratic processes. Globalisation can take place through international legal rules that have appropriate democratic credentials and that leave in place appropriate national autonomy.