Self Binding

In Arizona you can relinquish your right to go into Casinos by signing an agreement after which the Casino operator can toss you off the premises. That’s presumably a sign that you don’t trust your self to avoid the temptation. In California there is a town where you can relinquish your right to drive your car at night. I guess that’s a sign that you don’t trust your teenagers? Maybe it’s a sign that your really are paranoid about thieves. Or maybe it’s a scheme to keep mom from sneaking out the craft supply store. When you buy real estate in a gated community you sign away a vast range of freedoms, as you do when you move into a carefully zoned neighborhood. Of course there is the movement to have young people sign pledges that they will behave in a particular ways ranging from behave in class, through do their homework, up through abstain from sex until marriage.

All these are strategies to control the behavior of the parties involved. We all know that short term pleasures do tend to displace long term benefits. These schemes are necessary because we don’t trust our neighbors, our children and most interestingly ourselves! Optimal impulse control is extremely hard.

We all make “personal rules” that mimic the systems above because we don’t trust our future selves. This lack of trust is based on experience; in what makes for a variation of catch 22, if we had kept to our personal rules in the past we wouldn’t need them.

Mark Twain decided to limit his smoking to one cigar a day, for his health, and found that over time his cigars grew larger until the rule lead to the added benefit that he could use his cigar as a cane should the need arise. One of W.C. Fields characters, a temperance lecture would explain that he keep a bottle of liquor at close at hand. For snake bits only! He also kept close at hand a snake.

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