make politicians live by the rules they create

Recently I’ve heard some random comments about how politicians should be forced to participate in the healthcare system that they design. The idea is the specific application of a more general principle: people will make good institutions if they have to live by them. This principle is applied in many situations. For example, some people say “if he wants to vote for the war, then he should have to send his son,” or “if public schools are so good, why doesn’t his kid go to one?”

There is several problems with the application of this principle to legislative choices. For one thing, forcing the sons and daughters of legislators to live under the laws that their parents create might make legislators too focused on their own narrow interests. For example, if all the sons of legislators had to fight in any war that a legislator voted for, then we might have less wars, but we may have needed to fight some of those wars. In other words, its better if legislators can sometimes put the national interest ahead of their personal interest (or the interest of their kids).

Also, the biggest problem for reform is often the status quo. What would we tell senators in the current health care debate? Either vote for reform or let your kids live in the current health economy? They would happily let their kids live in the current health economy because in this economy, their kids have access to good care.

On a somewhat related note, here is a paper showing that the type of kids a legislator has influences their votes. In this study, the connection is between daughters and a liberal reproductive rights record. Legislators with daughters are more likely to be in favor of reproductive freedom.


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