Modern Political Incentives

Arnold Kling has one of the best statements on modern political incentives I have seen lately

Salmon complains that as far as the latest [European debt] plan is concerned, "the commitment is still vague." What I want to suggest is that for the politicians, vagueness is a feature rather than a bug. This reflects a fundamental misalignment between political incentives and economic requirements.

What markets and the economy need are policies that resolve uncertainty. That way, people know who is going to take a hit. Most important, they know where they can invest with confidence going forward.

What politicians need are vagueness and opacity. Having a clear, well-defined policy exposes the politician to the people who are hurt by that policy. Thus, instead of producing a balanced budget today, you produce a plan to produce a plan to balance the budget down the road. Instead of restructuring sovereign debt, you make a commitment that everyone will be made whole, without explaining how that commitment will be honored.

  • rxc

    They are politicians - it's what they do!