Rules and Restraint: Government Spending and the Design of Institutions

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Overview

Government spending has increased dramatically in the United States since World War II despite the many rules intended to rein in the seemingly 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. Ultimately, David Primo 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.

About the Author:
David M. Primo is assistant professor of political science at the University of Rochester

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Editorial Reviews

APSA Alan Rosenthal Prize

American Political Science Association's Alan Rosenthal Prize for "the best publication in legislative studies by a young scholar during 2007 of importance to legislators and legislative staff and of merit in strengthening the practice of representative democracy."

APSA Legislative Studies Newsletter
David Primo is motivated by the puzzle of why federal budgetary levels are unaffected by rules designed to restrain spending, and he wonders if rules can ever be effective. . . . His analysis cogently argues why rules and restraint are somewhat of an oxymoron at the congressional level. . . . Those seeking a study of legislative activity framed from an economic theory perspective may find this account quite useful for graduate classroom adoption.

β€” Aimee Franklin

Public Choice
A substantial contribution to the existing literature on political institutions and fiscal limits. . . . By writing one of those rare books which should interest both political scientists and practitioners of politics, Primo has provided a very fine service for his readers.

β€” Michael J. New

John G. Matsusaka

“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.”

Michael Munger

“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.”

 

Kenneth A. Shepsle

β€œTo achieve their ends, rules must provide procedures that are instrumentally efficacious and they, in turn, must be credibly enforceable. Design and enforcement are the twin concerns of David Primo . . . as he explores these questions in general and applies his arguments to budget rules in particular. He models spending limits, supermajority voting rules, and the executive veto, demonstrates the difficulties of enforcement, and then turns to the experiences of the American states as a test-bed for his theory. This is a fine piece of social science."

APSA Legislative Studies Newsletter - Aimee Franklin

"David Primo is motivated by the puzzle of why federal budgetary levels are unaffected by rules designed to restrain spending, and he wonders if rules can ever be effective. . . . His analysis cogently argues why rules and restraint are somewhat of an oxymoron at the congressional level. . . . Those seeking a study of legislative activity framed from an economic theory perspective may find this account quite useful for graduate classroom adoption."

Public Choice - Michael J. New

"A substantial contribution to the existing literature on political institutions and fiscal limits. . . . By writing one of those rare books which should interest both political scientists and practitioners of politics, Primo has provided a very fine service for his readers."

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Product Details

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction     1
Rule Design and Enforcement     23
External Enforcement     42
Internal Enforcement     61
The U.S. States     82
The Federal Government     105
Conclusion     123
Technical Material for Chapter 3     141
Technical Material for Chapter 4     150
Technical Material for Chapter 5     156
Technical Material for Chapter 6     158
Notes     161
References     175
Index     189
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