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In this Article, we assess the role the aggregation of citizen preferences into the foreign policy choices of a democratic country might play in the legitimization of international law. After addressing some of the theoretical and empirical issues associated with such an approach, we use an anticipated reaction model developed by Michael Bailey to show that even in large democracies there are mechanisms through which citizen preferences can be and are reflected in the policy choices of their representatives.

Incumbents and candidates for office take policy positions in hopes of maximizing their future election chances. Although policymakers each have their own personal policy preferences, those preferences must be balanced against those of the electorate to optimize the prospects for future election. Rational well-informed policymakers anticipate future electoral consequences of public opinion and adjust their present policy positions accordingly. We then discuss the implications of such an approach for the principle of subsidiarity and the participation of states in multilateral institutions, in particular the International Monetary Fund. We argue that there is reason to believe that citizen preferences remain relevant in decisions whether to centralize or decentralize, and in decisions whether a state will support or undermine the mission of international institutions, which must be taken into account as those institutions make their own substantive and procedural choices.