Fiscal discipline: rules rather than institutions

Pub. Date
03 August, 2011

The lack of fiscal discipline is a natural and pervasive implication of the perceived separation between the benefits from public spending and the taxes that individuals and interest groups receive and pay, respectively. The implication is that budget preparation, decision and execution must be constrained. The challenge is that the policymakers who need to be constrained are those who must decide the constraints. Two broad classes of solutions are possible: institutions that shape the budgetary process and quantitative rules that set limits. The mounting experience with both institutions and rules is disappointing, for reasons that are often complementary. Examining the reasons for this state of affairs, this article argues that institutions and rules ought to be combined and associated with advisory fiscal councils.