Self-Restraint Instruments

William Ascher

in Bringing in the Future

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780226029160
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226029184 | DOI:
Self-Restraint Instruments

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This chapter describes self-restricting measures for overcoming obstacles to farsighted commitments. The broad sets of strategies include stimulus control, hands-tying, and reputation building. Hands-tying can be effected by increasing the costs of reneging and by decreasing the capacity of the decision maker to change course. Arrangements that precommit resources reflect the logic of both stimulus control and hands-tying. Policies involving “collateral” to be surrendered if promises are not kept are also rare, yet a few parallels can be found. Conditional commitments can gain more credibility if they involve conditional hands-tying or a self-hostaging arrangement. The contrast between perpetual and self-liquidating foundations raises a significant issue of how the degree of farsightedness can be compared across different strategies. The paradoxical logic of limiting one's control in order to improve one's effectiveness can be remarkably potent in the right circumstances.

Keywords: self-restricting measures; farsighted commitments; stimulus control; hands-tying; reputation building; farsightedness

Chapter.  11340 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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