(International) Law as Answer to Moral Risk

We argue that the idea of moral risk is necessary to understanding (a) the nature of certain morally significant relationships and their constitutive rights, duties, and responsibilities; and (b) the nature of (international) law and the character of legal rights, duties, and responsibilities. Moral risk is exposure to harmful normative change (normative change being change in reasons). On our view, law tracks some morally risky relationships and is a remedial, institutionalized response to them. Understanding law thusly helps motivate the notion that justified coercion is a necessary feature of law. The absence of centralized coercion internationally offers a troubling test case. However, our approach yields novel consequences for understanding the nature of international law and its constituent duties, rights, and obligations. Relationships of moral risk in domestic law have international analogues: an account of moral risk is indispensable in understanding the global legal order.