Britain’s deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has a good idea: banks bailed out by the government should pay their executives smaller bonuses. Bloomberg reports that Clegg said in an interview that “If it was left up to me, we wouldn’t have any bonuses, particularly in the state-owned banks while they’re still being repaired.”This seems right, and not just because it makes taxpayers fume with impotent rage to know that taxpayer money is stoking multimillion dollar bonuses for Wall Street fat cats who survive on government bailouts. It’s right because we want bankers to manage their affairs in ways that minimize their need for government help — and the best way to do that is to make sure that bankers who fail at this task take a huge and painful hit in the wallet. Perhaps bonuses given in the three years before the bank has to turn to the government might be clawed back as well.Regulation will never solve all the problems of the banking system; lawyers are very good at helping their clients find ways around annoying government rules. But if bankers know that getting a bailout meant huge hits to their personal wealth, I suspect that a certain amount of prudence would enter their calculations.That would be a good thing.