January 28, 2009
Kenneth Anderson Thinks Network Regulation Is No Holy Grail
Posted by David Zaring
Over at Opinio Juris, Kenneth Anderson has a fine post on the problems with network regulation - said regulation being the rage in international governance.  Why, you ask?  Consider the following.  Rather than conclude a complicated treaty under the auspices of diplomats and requiring Senate ratification, why doesn't NHTSA, or EPA, just get together with foreign transportation departments and come up with a common approach to, say, miles per gallon standards in cars?  That would be a network, and it isn't a far fetched network.  The Basel Committee, which sets capital adequacy requirements for banks the world over, is a network, in that the standards were devised by central bankers meeting in secret in Basel, Switzerland - no treaty, no diplomats, and members of the committee had to change their domestic policy to comply with Basel's mandates.  I am in the tank for networks.

Ken makes two points about networks:
1. Factually, he suspects that they can at best play only a coordinating role among agencies, and so he's not that bothered by them.  But coordinating roles can be important.  So to this I inquire, would you rather be the secretary who drafts the UCC, or the member from Oregon, who went to the meeting with Oregon's views on what a commercial code should look like in mind, knowing that the Oregon legislature would ultimately have to decide whether to adopt the UCC?  Is the power with the Oregon legislature, the regulator from Oregon, or the network?
2. Normatively, he thinks that network propagandists buy into a kum-by-yah view of an ever peaceful world order created by traffic safety regulators who agree on what the universal sign for STOP should look like.  To this I say: yes, he's on to something, but the acid test of informal international cooperation is the EU.  Which always votes down the latest treaty, and - I suspect - increasingly loves having a common currency, a Champions League, and products subject to the same safety testing.  Was that because of Rome 1960?  Because of the inevitably of prosperous countries getting together to play sports?  Or because of all those meeting in Brussels?

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