Abstract

Arild Underdal's work on the Law of the Least Ambitious Program (LLAP) is a significant contribution to our understanding of the logic of international collaboration. The LLAP, however, applies only under particular conditions. After comparing the law to the joint decision trap and the veto player concept, we discuss four observations that tend to limit the law's domain. First, while the LLAP is intended to apply to decision-making under unanimity, in a number of international bodies decisions are made by some kind of majority voting. Second, the LLAP assumes that the alternative to collective agreement is individual decision-making, yet in practice the relevant alternative (the “reversion rule”) is often the continuation of some pre-existing collaborative arrangement. Third, whereas the LLAP assumes that the unanimity rule invariably favors the least ambitious program, there are interesting cases where this assumption does not hold. Finally, the LLAP does not take into account that the outcome of international decision-making not only depends on the decision rule and the reversion rule, but also on the voting sequence.

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