Odious regimes have always been there. That there is no silver-bullet solution that will prevent odious regimes from arising, or stymie them once they do, is evident from the plethora of responses employed by the international community once a regime's odiousness becomes clear. Current odious debt doctrine dates back to a 1927 treatise by a wandering Russian academic named Alexander Sack. The Sack definition contemplates a debt-by-debt approach to questionable borrowing. If a loan is used to benefit the population--to build a highway or water-treatment plant, for instance--the obligation would be fully enforceable, no matter how pernicious the borrower regime. Here, Bolton and Skeel attempt to fill the vacuum: a regime is odious if it engages in either systematic suppression or systematic looting.

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