Rules and Restraint: Government Spending and the Design of Institutions

Front Cover
Government spending has increased dramatically in the United States since World War II despite the many rules intended to rein in the insatiable appetite for tax revenue most politicians seem to share. Drawing on examples from the federal and state governments, Rules and Restraint explains in lucid, nontechnical prose why these budget rules tend to fail, and proposes original alternatives for imposing much-needed fiscal discipline on our legislators.

One reason budget rules are ineffective, David Primo shows, is that politicians often create and preserve loopholes to protect programs that benefit their constituents. Another reason is that legislators must enforce their own provisions, an arrangement that is seriously compromised by their unwillingness to abide by rules that demand short-term sacrifices for the sake of long-term gain. Convinced that budget rules enacted through such a flawed legislative process are unlikely to work, Primo ultimately calls for a careful debate over the advantages and drawbacks of a constitutional convention initiated by the states—a radical step that would bypass Congress to create a path toward change. Rules and Restraint will be required reading for anyone interested in institutional design, legislatures, and policymaking.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Rule Design and Enforcement
23
External Enforcement
42
Internal Enforcement
61
The US States
82
The Federal Government
105
Conclusion
123
Appendix A Technical Material for Chapter 3
141
Appendix B Technical Material for Chapter 4
150
Appendix C Technical Material for Chapter 5
156
Appendix D Technical Material for Chapter 6
158
Notes
161
References
175
Index
189
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

David Primo is assistant professor of political science at the University of Rochester and a coauthor of The Plane Truth: Airline Crashes, the Media, and Transportation Policy.

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