Political Theory 49 (2):215-242 (2021)

At the heart of the tension between state autonomy and international law is the question of whether states should willingly restrict their freedom of action for the sake of international security, human rights, trade, communication, and the environment. David Hume offers surprising insights to answer this question. He argues that the same interests in cooperation arise among individuals as well as states and that their interactions should be regulated by the same principles. Drawing on his model of dynamic coordination, I will reconstruct the Humean case for developing international law into a more robust legal system and also highlight the limitation of Hume’s account of justice for such a reconstructive project. Hume’s lessons are enduring; we must strengthen the essential features of international law that allow states and individuals to reap the benefits of its protections, such as nonoptional rules that articulate a moral minimum, courts with compulsory jurisdiction, and stronger mechanisms of enforcement.
Keywords David Hume
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DOI 10.1177/0090591720921831
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