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Real Commitment at the OMB—A Commentary by Ian Ayres ’86

The following commentary was published in The New York Times on April 22, 2009.

Real Commitment at the OMB
By Ian Ayres ’86

Catherine Rampell had a nice post last week over at Economix (“Do It Or Pay”) telling of NPR’s recent interview with Peter Orszag, the director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, in which Orszag talks about writing an exercise contract exactly like what my beloved stickK.com offers:

“If I didn’t achieve what I wanted to, a very large contribution would automatically come out of my credit card and go to a charity that I very much didn’t support,” Orszag says of his training strategy. “So that was a very strong motivation, as I was running through mile 15 or 16 or whatever it was, to remind myself that I really didn’t want to give the satisfaction to that charity for the contribution.”

My most frequent coauthor (and Honest Tea cofounder) Barry Nalebuff can brag that Obama likes to drink a variety of H.T. flavors. But I’m hoping that Orszag’s marathon training might be the harbinger of a wider spread use of commitment devices in the current administration.