Issues of constitutional design are fundamental to the study of international organisations, and the North-South debate has given such issues increased prominence and interest; witness the recent debates on the structure of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Our understanding of how nations design covenants and charters is limited, however. The economics literature offers us insights into how to conduct more rigorous analyses of the constitutional questions facing diplomats and legal specialists. The paper illustrates the usefulness of incorporating that literature in the study of one of the classic constitutional issues, namely, the desirability of unanimity rule. Buchanan and Tullock’s Generalised Economic Theory of Constitutions is used to refine some well-known analyses of unanimity. A rational construction for the choice of unanimity rule is developed, and the false dichotomy between majoritarianism and unanimity is illuminated. In turn, more complete explanations for the policy choices of particular governments are constructed and important insights into the UNCTAD voting impasse are gained.
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