Nobel-winning economist James Buchanan distinguishes between two kinds of analysis: pre-constitutional and post-constitutional. Pre-constitutional analysis focuses on the rules of the game; post-constitutional analysis focuses on how people behave under those rules once they’re in place. The current rules of America’s political game result in 3,500-plus new regulations every year, trillion-dollar deficits, and other major problems.
The solution isn’t to put different people in charge. The status quo’s incentive structures guarantee that the results will stay about the same, no matter who is in power. Instead, real reform can only happen at the institutional level. Change the rules of the political game in a way that gives politicians an incentive to keep their worst impulses in check. If you want different results, you need different rules.
Over at Real Clear Policy, my colleague David Deerson and do a bit of pre-constitutional analysis on one rule change that could do a lot of good:
[A]dd a repeal amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one that would allow two-thirds of state legislatures to repeal any federal law or regulation they see fit. A repeal amendment would enhance federalism and make democracy more meaningful to citizens by bringing it closer to them.
When most people think of the government’s separation of powers, they think of the three branches of the federal government—executive, judiciary, and legislative. In a federalist system such as ours, the separation of powers between the federal government itself and the states is just as important.
Read the whole thing here.