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Rethinking sovereignty in international fiscal policy


The power to raise taxes is a sine qua non for the functioning of the modern state. Governments frequently defend the independence of their fiscal policy as a matter of sovereignty. This article challenges this defence by demonstrating that it relies on an antiquated conception of sovereignty. Instead of the Westphalian sovereignty centred on non-intervention that has long dominated relations between states, today's fiscal interdependence calls for a conception of sovereignty that assigns duties as well as rights to states. While such a circumscribed conception of sovereignty has emerged in other areas of international law in recent years, it has yet to be extended to fiscal questions. Here, these duties arguably include obligations of transparency, of respect for the fiscal choices of other countries, and of distributive justice. The resulting conception of sovereignty is one that emphasises its instrumental as well as its conditional character. Neither state sovereignty nor self-determination is an end in itself, but a means to promoting individual well-being. It is conditional in the sense that if states do not live up to their fiscal obligations towards other states, their claims to autonomy are void.

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Stephen D. Krasner , Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999)

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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