Revisiting the Autonomous Contract - Transnational contract law, trends and supportive structures
Ralph Amissah *

10. As an aside, a word of caution

I end with an arguably gratuitous observation, by way of a reminder and general warning. Gratuitous in the context of this paper because the areas focused upon 75 were somewhat deliberately selected to fall outside the more contentious and “politically” problematic areas related to globalisation, economics, technology, law and politics. 76 Gratuitous also because there will be no attempt to concretise or exemplify the possibility suggested.

Fortunately, we are not (necessarily) talking about a zero sum game, however, it is necessary to be able to distinguish and recognise that which may harm. International commerce/trade is competitive, and by its nature not benign, even if it results in an overall improvement in the economic lot of the peoples of our planet. “Neutral tests” such as Kaldor-Hicks efficiency, do not require that your interests are benefited one iota, just that whilst those of others are improved, yours are not made worse. If the measure adopted is overall benefit, it is even more possible that an overall gain may result where your interests are adversely affected. The more so if you have little, and those that gain, gain much. Furthermore such “tests” are based on assumptions, which at best are approximations of reality (e.g. that of zero transaction costs, where in fact not only are they not, but they are frequently proportionately higher for the economically weak). At worst they may be manipulated ex ante with knowledge of their implications (e.g. engineering to ensure actual or relative 77 asymmetrical transaction cost). It is important to be careful in a wide range of circumstances related to various aspects of the modelling of the infrastructure for international commerce that have an impact on the allocation of rights and obligations, and especially the allocation of resources, including various types of intellectual property rights. Ask what is the objective and justification for the protection? How well is the objective met? Are there other consequential effects? Are there other objectives that are worthy of protection? Could the stated objective(s) be achieved in a better way?

Within a system are those who benefit from the way it has been, that may oppose change as resulting in loss to them or uncertainty of their continued privilege. For a stable system to initially arise that favours such a Select Set, does not require the conscious manipulation of conditions by the Select Set. Rather it requires that from the system (set) in place the Select Set emerges as beneficiary. Subsequently the Select Set having become established as favoured and empowered by their status as beneficiary, will seek to do what it can, to influence circumstances to ensure their continued beneficial status. That is, to keep the system operating to their advantage (or tune it to work even better towards this end), usually with little regard to the conditions resulting to other members of the system. Often this will be a question of degree, and the original purpose, or an alternative “neutral” argument, is likely to be used to justify the arrangement. The objective from the perspective of the Select Set is fixed; the means at their disposal may vary. Complexity is not required for such situations to arise, but having done so subsequent plays by the Select Set tend towards complexity. Furthermore, moves in the interest of the Select Set are more easily obscured/disguised in a complex system. Limited access to information and knowledge are devastating handicaps without which change cannot be contemplated let alone negotiated. Frequently, having information and knowledge are not enough. The protection of self-interest is an endemic part of our system, with the system repeatedly being co-opted to the purposes of those that are able to manipulate it. Membership over time is not static, for example, yesterday's “copycat nations” are today's innovators, and keen to protect their intellectual property. Which also illustrates the point that what it may take to set success in motion, may not be the same as that which is preferred to sustain it. Whether these observations appear to be self-evident and/or abstract and out of place with regard to this paper, they have far reaching implications repeatedly observable within the law, technology, and commerce (politics) nexus. Even if not arising much in the context of the selected material for this paper, their mention is justified by way of warning. Suitable examples would easily illustrate how politics arises inescapably as an emergent property from the nexus of commerce, technology, and law. 78

 75. Sale of goods (CISG), contract rules and principles (PICC), related Arbitration, and the promotion of certain egalitarian ideals.

 76. It is not as evident in the area of private international commercial contract law the chosen focus for this paper, but appears repeatedly in relation to other areas and issues arising out of the economics, technology, law nexus.

 77. Low fixed costs have a “regressive” effect

 78. In such circumstances either economics or law on their own would be sufficient to result in politics arising as an emergent property.



SiSU Spine (object numbering & object search) 2022