Rules and Restraint
Government Spending and the Design of Institutions
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.
“American democracy is replete with legal rules that restrict the power of elected officials. Rules and Restraint shows that many popular rules, such as balanced budget requirements and spending limits, are restraints in name only because no one can enforce them. With its blend of rigorous theory and evidence, this innovative book is required reading for reformers as well as scholars who want to understand why political institutions sometimes fail to live up to their promise, and how to make them more effective.”<John G. Matsusaka, University of Southern California>
“There are no other books on budgeting that approach this level of insight or breadth. Rules and Restraint is a fine, and finely crafted, book that will go right to the top of the list of standard textbooks for classes and references for practitioners.”<Michael Munger, Duke University>