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Global Communications and National Power: Life on the Pareto Frontier

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

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Regime analysis has focused on issues of market failure, the resolution of which depends upon knowledge and institution building. Global communications regimes, however, have been concerned either with issues of pure coordination or with coordination problems with distributional consequences. Outcomes have been decided by the underlying distribution of national power. In those areas where power was asymmetrically distributed and there was no agreement on basic principles and norms—radio broadcasting and remote sensing—no regime was formed. In those areas where distributional issues could not be unilaterally resolved—allocation of the radio spectrum and telecommunications—regimes were created, although both principles and rules changed with alterations in national power capabilities.

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Research Article
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Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1991

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References

1 Stein, , “Coordination and Collaboration: Regimes in an Anarchic World,” in Krasner, S. D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983).Google ScholarSnidal, Duncan refers to this same distinction as “Coordination versus Prisoners' Dilemma: Implications for International Cooperation and Regimes,” American Political Science Review 79 (December 1985), 923–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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5 Similar kinds of reasoning about commitment have been used in the recent literature on strategic trade theory. One element of this analysis is that state intervention to promote a particular industry is desirable because it demonstrates a level of national commitment that could not be provided by the action of private firms. See, for instance, Brander, James A., “Rationales for Strategic Trade and Industrial Policy,” in Krugman, Paul R., ed., Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986), 30.Google Scholar

6 Snidal (fn. 1), 938, points out that the threat of exclusion can itself be an effective bar gaining tool. By threatening to exclude, a more powerful state might secure the compliance of a weaker state.

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16 Axelrod and Keohane (fn. 10), 253, summarize: “We have seen that governments have often tried to transform the structure within which they operate so as to make it possible for the countries involved to work together more productively.”

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20 For instance, Article 44 of the Atlantic City Telecommunications Convention, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 1950, condemns the jamming of radio broadcasts, but it also cautions that states should “refrain from radio broadcasts that would mean unfair attacks or slanders against other peoples anywhere”; Gross, Leo, “Some International Law Aspects of the Freedom of Information and the Right to Communicate,” in Nordenstreng, Kaarle and Schiller, Herbert I., eds., National Sovereignty and International Communication (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1979), 208–9.Google Scholar See also Murty, B. S., Propaganda and World Public Order: The Legal Regulation of the Ideological Instrument of Coercion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 34, 109–10Google Scholar; Marks, David, “Broadcasting across the Wall: The Free Flow of Information between East and West Germany,” Journal of Communication 33 (Winter 1983), 4655, at 47CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Martin, John L., International Propaganda: Its Legal and Diplomatic Control (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958), 78—79.Google Scholar

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24 Bumpus and Skelt (fn. 22), 102; Murty (fn. 20), 55.

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29 Europe, April 1989, p. 29; Financial Times, June 15, 1989; New YorK Times, October 4, 1989, p. C17.

30 Quester (fn. 27), 126.

31 Assuming no agreement on principles, the future of state control will depend on power derived from technological choices. It would, for instance, be easier to regulate transmissions sent through fiber-optic cables than those sent via satellites. Ibid., 138–39.

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43 Ibid., 188; Drake (fn. 40), 40–42, 46–48.

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56 Aronson and Cowhey (fn. 45), 121–32.

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59 For an excellent discussion of various payoff matrices, see Oye (fn. 12), 12–18.

60 This point is forcefully made in Grieco (fn. 2).

61 Perrow, , Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay, 3d ed. (New York: Random House, 1986), 132.Google Scholar Perrow criticizes economic analyses, such as the principal agent literature, for ignoring the distribution of power (pp. 230, 257–58).

62 Contrast (1) the discussion in Axelrod and Keohane (fn. 10), 249, about the way in which background conditions, such as issue linkage, can be altered to facilitate cooperation with (2) the analysis in this paper, in which power is used to alter background conditions (players, issue linkage, payoff matrix) to change the distribution of benefits.

63 This argument is elaborated in Krasner (fn. 39).

64 Such control is not foreordained even for telephone communications. While international links for both satellite and cable are now connected to national systems through a limited number of easily regulated gateways, Motorola has announced plans to develop a portable telephone system that could send and receive calls point to point anywhere on earth by bouncing signals off seventy-seven satellites; New York Times, June 26, 1990, p. 1.

65 Robert Jervis has also argued that one of the attractions of Prisoner's Dilemma is that it lends itself to interesting manipulations; see Jervis, , “Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation,” World Politics 40 (April 1988), 317–49, at 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

66 See ibid., 334, for a similar formulation. Grieco (fn. 14) places particular emphasis on the desire of states to preserve their freedom of action.

67 I am indebted to Terry Moe for pointing out this line of argument.

68 Coase, Ronald, “The Problem of Social Cost,” Journal of Law and Economics 3 (1960), 144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar John Conybeare has applied Coase's logic to problems of international organization. See Conybeare, , “International Organization and the Theory of Property Rights,” International Organization 34 (Summer 1980), 307–34, esp. 322–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar, where the author recognizes, although does not elaborate, the income effects of the initial distribution of property rights.

69 For instance, Joseph Grieco's recent study of the nontariff barrier codes negotiated during the Tokyo Round suggests that conventional concerns about relative power are a more persuasive explanation of outcomes than neoliberal considerations involving cheating and information. Grieco argues that both absolute and relative gains must be included in the utility function of states; see Grieco (fn. 14), 40–49.

70 Snidal (fn. 1), 935, demonstrates that a more powerful state, understood as the actor which is less in need of coordination, will, in a bilateral bargaining situation, secure an out come closer to its most desired point than its weaker antagonist.

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