I previously mentioned StickK, the commitment-sticking service started earlier this year. The service allows individuals to create commitment contracts, similar to an option on your ability to meet your goals. The point being, of course, that if you fail in your endeavor you have to cough up (or you can enter a non-financial contract in which you simply subject yourself to public humiliation, but where’s the fun in that?). Popular goals seem to be losing weight and quitting smoking.
Every time I think about it, it seems like a better idea. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking some math classes as a refresher in the event I decide I want to pursue grad school. But much of my need for a class isn’t the teaching so much as the structural accountability of having to go to a class and turn in assignments and get grades, even if they hold little per se value. Why bother with all that if I can just blackmail myself into studying with a $100 or $200 option? It’s cheaper than taking a class and since the potential payoff is a future event there’s no sunk cost rationalization at stake.
A rational marriage contract should include specific commitments and designated payouts/consequences if either party neglects his or her vows. As it stands, the only accountability mechanisms are public admonishment (which may be directed at the wrong person if a couple splits based on implicit commitment), divorce costs, and the sunk cost of the wedding and being married. It might be interesting at least as a way of drawing out the implicit expectations people have of their partners but fail to share and agree upon.