Behavioural Economics and ISDS Reform: A Response to Marceddu and Ortolani


Academic investigators have used behavioural economics, a method developed originally to study consumers and their sentiments towards products, to study matters of public policy. A recent article in the European Journal of International Law – ‘What Is Wrong with Investment Arbitration? Evidence from a Set of Behavioural Experiments’ – gives a detailed summary of a series of experiments performed in order to study public sentiment towards investment arbitration. The investigators, Maria Laura Marceddu and Pietro Ortolani observe that public sentiment improves towards the outcome of a dispute settlement procedure when survey respondents are told that the procedure was a ‘court’ with tenured judges, and it worsens when they are told that it was ‘arbitration’ with temporary appointees. From their observations, Marceddu and Ortolani conclude that an international investment court, such as that which the European Union promotes, is a good idea. We suggest, however, that a further inquiry should investigate in greater detail public understanding of what qualities the individuals who serve as judges or arbitrators ought to display, as distinct from the institutional format in which dispute settlement takes place.