Many moons ago, I was assigned to read Steven Landsburg’s The Armchair Economist, in which he makes some “modest proposals” about law and government. One such proposal (which he credited to Alan Stockman) was that politicians be allowed to make legally binding promises. For instance, if you’d care to re-create Papa Bush’s “Read My Lips” pledge, you’d have the opportunity to make it legally enforceable. If you do, then the public has something to hold over your head. If you don’t, then you’re all talk and the public will take that into consideration when voting.
I love this ideer. We’d have to iron out the details of how to make these promises legally binding. Maybe we could develop a type of contract under federal law such that violation would constitute a “high crime and misdemeanor” and would therefore be impeachable. States could develop laws that would keep those who break these promises off all future ballots. A political party could make its nominees and officeholders sign contracts such that violation would mean no support from the party in the upcoming election. The point is that we’d have one more way to hold politicians responsible for broken promises, incorrect predictions, and falsehoods instead of having to wait for the next election to make them suffer.
Landsburg’s proposal came to mind because of the $10,000 bet that Mitt Romney offered Rick Perry in yesterday’s debate. Maybe the bet was a rhetorical flourish, as the Romney camp is claiming today. Maybe it shows that Romney’s out of touch with average Iowans, as the Perry camp is claiming today. Maybe they’re both idiots, as the Democrats are claiming today. These very real possibilities are entirely beside the point.
Why not let these guys make this sort of bet? Why not encourage them to make this sort of bet? Wouldn’t it be one more way to keep them honest? Wouldn’t it put pressure on them to be more precise and accurate with their statements? I think that at the very least, they’d become less grandiose and more realistic in their pronouncements, and they’d be more careful about sliming their opponents.
Besides, wouldn’t the gambling angle draw more attention to debates, campaigns, lawmaking, etc.? Pundits, professors, and politicians often chastise Americans for not paying enough attention to matters of state– well, I assure you that moving the debates to casinos and allowing bookies in the hallowed chambers of Congress will fix that. Heck, we can even find a way to incorporate these bets into state and regional lotteries. That‘ll get folks paying attention to the campaigns, and holding politicians’ feet to the fire.
The Bears did not get Tebowed today. They got Barbered. They got Barbered badly enough that I was reminded of Felipe Melo’s meltdown against Holland last summer.
That’s two out of the last three games where the Backup Bears hurt the team with clock management issues. Stupid coaching or stupid players?