Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Henry Harfield

First Page



International trade can be conducted only under the rule of law. There is no rule of law that governs international trade. These statements form a paradox, and the beginning of two possible syllogisms. One construction is that since there is no rule of law governing international trade, and international trade is dependent upon the rule of law, international trade must perish. The other and more hopeful construction is that international trade does exist, it must exist, and because it is dependent upon the rule of law, a rule of law must be devised.

I believe in the latter formulation, but I recognize that there is a vital difference between a rule of law and a principle of law. Principles and rules both describe conduct; but a rule does more--it requires conformity to the described conduct, under penalty of consequences. These philosophical abstractions can be proved in the laboratory experiment of trade, and as the trade becomes more sophisticated, the proof of the abstraction becomes more concrete.