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The idea of the state lies at the core of international relations and international law. The concept of sovereignty is also central to the notion of the state. Indeed, inherent in the existing system of states are the principles of political independence and sovereign equality that form the underpinnings of sovereignty. Thus, it is unsurprising that the United Nations Charter specifically declares that: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII." This provision, which is similar to provisions found in many other international treaties, was necessary because without it sovereign states would have been reluctant to join the United Nations. Countries jealously protect their sovereignty, and under international law, have the right to use armed force to do so. This devotion to sovereignty appears to be inconsistent with the increasing trend toward the establishment of international agreements and institutions, since they involve a surrender of some degree of sovereignty. After all, "[s]ince governments put a high value on the maintenance of their own autonomy, it is usually impossible to establish international institutions that exercise authority over states." This paper attempts to reconcile this apparent inconsistency by examining the trend toward international agreements from a public choice perspective.

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