Summary The emerging global economy is characterised by the virtually free movement of capital, while labour is still essentially confined to the nation state. The East Asian crisis has revealed the extent to which international financial ‘architecture’ does not yet correspond to this reality – let alone resolve its inconsistencies. The consequent public action problem is analysed in this article by first addressing the global causes of emerging market volatility and the failure of international financial institutions (such as the IMF) to contain it. The current attempt to extend multilateral bank regulation towards emerging markets is shown to suffer from severe limitations, as do proposals for mutual regulatory recognition and a global credit insurance system. The prospects for establishing a binding set of rules for global investment, with logical consequences for both multilateral capital taxation and international debt resolution, are improving, but remain problematic due to the ‘missing institutions’ required to create an orderly global capital market. The article concludes with an unexpected implication for the concept of citizenship itself.