Instead of having government spending and revenue determined by officials who appear to prefer being re-elected, say we set up a supreme court of government budgeting and revenues.

We observe incentive bias in elected officials when budgeting (legislative pork) and when determining tax (highly specific tax breaks). We can reduce this incentive bias via the same mechanism as the Supreme Court, i.e. tenure for life. This new panel would weigh out the merits of budget requests and determine what taxes were needed. Like the court, they would detail their arguments pro and con.

This will never happen, though. When would publicly elected officials ever vote themselves less power?

The central problem in a democracy is that productivity and wealth always follow a Pareto distribution, so demagogues can always steal from the rich and give to the poor. Your proposed solution would simply push the struggle earlier in the political process - much like it has in the US post FDR with the ascendancy Legal Realism and the almost complete gutting of constitutional limits on Federal legislation (in the US, not so familiar with other countries). It seems like a much better solution is to simply have the correct peoples' long term incentives aligned. If you look at the early US it was structured very closely to a joint stock corporation. The land requirements to vote meant that the people with political power literally owned the country. I won't say that there weren't problems with the arrangement, but if you are after fiscally responsible management, that seems like the only time tested method that has worked. -- Theo

I should really clean these up before I post them. Instead of central problem, I should probably have wrote something like central tension. I meant steal in the ethical and more specifically libertarian sense, not the legal sense. "The only time tested method" refers to alignment of incentives; I am deeply skeptical of the claim that divided sovereignty has ever worked over even a century long period of time. I am fully aware that the central tension goes both ways - the rich try and steal from the poor as well. In general, however, taking from the rich and giving to the poor is more damaging to the long-term health of the country as the poor (who have higher discount rates) reduce or even reverse capital formation, the major factor in the standard of living. -- Theo

I like the supreme court model: watch what the 50 experiments are doing and use what appears to work. The flexibility / adaptability / incentive reduction seems to have served the Supreme Court well. Perhaps a compromise would be for the court to have dual countervailing mandates. Capital formation vs unemployment might work, although I'm not convinced that's the best balancing mandate. -- Patrick