Population weights in the international order

Geoffrey McNicoll*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Relative population sizes play little part in the international system. A state's economic and military power is influenced by population size, but as one factor among many. Formal relations among states exclude population from consideration by the principle of sovereign equality. Three sources of possible change in this situation are explored, in which states would be 'population-weighted' to a greater degree than before. Convergence of productivity levels around the world, expected by many, would bring the economic and population rankings of states more into line. Some convergence is occurring, but selectively and for the most part quite slowly. Anticipation of its effect, however, influences the international order well in advance. A second source of change is the necessity to allocate among states the use of global commons, particularly the atmosphere as a sink for greenhouse gases. Acceptable remedies for this problem and perhaps for other global-level threats are likely to involve at least in part a per capita allocation principle. And third, population weights will tend to be more prominent in futures in which states are less important-as envisaged, for example, in the more benign scenarios of global society.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)411-442
    Number of pages32
    JournalPopulation and Development Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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