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Fearon: Bargaining, Enforcement, and international cooperation

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Fearon. 1998. Bargaining, Enforcement, and international cooperation. International Organization 52 (spring): 269-305.

See notes for Oye 1986 for a brief comparison of how Fearon disputes some of Oye's conclusions.

The game has a few key elements:

  • Two players
  • Difficulty of detecting defections
  • Discount factor
  • The cost each side bears for holding out a little longer for a better deal
  • and some other things too

"The lower a state's cost for noncooperation, the longer it will hold out for the better deal. Thus 'more powerful' types adopt tougher bargaining strategies and are more likely to prevail in the bargaining game. The catch is that ex ante, the states are uncertain about who is more powerful, in the sense of having lower opportunity costs for no agreement. Indeed, it is precisely this uncertainty that leads them to engage in a costly war of attrition. Willingness to hold out, bearing the costs of noncooperation, acts as a costly signal in the bargaining phase that credibly reveals a state's 'power' on the issue in question."

Also, better detection/monitoring abilities make agreements easier to make.

Three implications for international regimes [compare with neoliberalism]:

"First, focal points and bargaining precedents are undoubtedly created by experience of repeatedly negotiating certain sets of issues within the context of a regime... Second, regimes put explicit structure on interstate bargaining processes; they may specify who can make what sort of offers, when, in what sequence, to whom, and so on... Third, regimes may less then bargaining problem by raising the political costs of failure to agree, since a failure to agree can now have adverse implications for the regime."