Anna Gelpern

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The Blocher-Gulati critique of the barriers to secession under public international law is insightful and thought provoking, an important contribution in its own right. I wish it had not been eclipsed by the authors' clever and provocative fix: turning sovereignty into a tradable commodity. I suspect that this fix would bring about more suffering than the status quo for two reasons. First, a market for sovereign control is unlikely to be a market in any meaningful sense. Therefore, trading sovereignty would not discipline oppressors. Second, should something like a real market materialize, it could diminish the incentives for states to treat their populations better just as plausibly as it could improve them. Distant empires could find it easier to traffic in oppressed people and territories, which would pass from state to state as their masters lose interest. A class of marginal client statelets would grow, endowed with a poor stepchild of sovereignty, which would leave their people defenseless and voiceless.

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