Tying one's self to the mast with silly string
Richard Thaler, in today's NY Times has words of wisdom on governments' pervasive inability to commit to painful future courses of action with balanced budget amendments or fiscal rules.
Sadly, he fails to stick the landing:
The bottom line is that in matters of governmental self-control there is no real substitute for willpower. If we want to balance the budget over time we are going to have to elect adults to Congress who are prepared to invest now in our country’s future and then, when the economy picks up, take the necessary steps to get spending in line with revenue. The question is whether politicians who act like adults can win elections.
Yes, that is surely the solution to the inability to bind future politicians and the serious problem that optimal policies are often time inconsistent: just find the right people!
Could we not at least try to think of institutional changes that might help the situation instead of calling for politicians from another planet to come and save us?
How about longer terms of office but no re-election? say 6 years in the House, 8 years for President, 10 years for Senate?