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The Logic of DisciplineGlobal Capitalism and the Architecture of Government$
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Alasdair Roberts

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195374988

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195374988.001.0001

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Treasury Power and Fiscal Rules

Treasury Power and Fiscal Rules

(p.47) 3 Treasury Power and Fiscal Rules
The Logic of Discipline

Alasdair Roberts (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines institutional reform efforts aimed at curbing the unhealthy tendencies of unconstrained democratic processes in the era of liberalization. In many countries, power was consolidated in the hands of finance ministries, with the expectation that they would control the spending impulses of legislators and other agencies. Many countries also adopted legal rules that were intended to limit spending and borrowing. This was the logic of discipline at work: skepticism about the capacity of democratic institutions to regulate themselves, combined with the naïve institutionalist's optimism that institutional reforms would produce significant changes in the behavior of governmental systems. These attempts at discipline largely failed. The authority of finance ministries could be asserted during crises but faltered afterward, largely because it proved so profoundly hostile to the principle of democratic control. And legal constraints on spending and borrowing proved to be unequal to the impulses they sought to contain. This was evident even before the onset of the global financial crisis in August 2007. The crisis itself did even more damage to the idea of budgetary discipline, as Treasuries themselves became the most activist of spending ministries.

Keywords:   national treasuries, financial crises, fiscal policy, monetary policy, public expenditure, economic liberalization

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