Paul B. Stephan


Sovereigns incur debts, and creditors look to the law to hold sovereigns to their obligations. In legal terms, the question is whether to recognize and define an odious debt defense through a treaty or national legislative acts, on the one hand, or through the decisions of authoritative dispute-settlement bodies, whether international arbitral organs or domestic courts. Moreover, others may think that odious debt doctrine as a means can optimize the social welfare generated by sovereign-debt contracts. Here, Stephan examines the social welfare in the economic sense but attacks the problem from a different direction and concludes that no satisfactory mechanism exists for instituting an odious debt doctrine.

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