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Campaign Finance Law Furthers Our Corrupt Politics November 1, 2007

Posted by federalist in Government.

The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance “Reform” law is a fascinating microcosm of the corruption of our modern American government. From the illuminating introduction to John Samples’ book, The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform (emphases mine):

The Madisonian and the Progressive visions frame the debate about campaign finance by identifying the general interest, the particular interests that threaten it, and what is to be done about that particularity. For the past three decades, Progressives have driven this debate. Their vision of politics says that economic elites—variously defined as “Big Money,” “the rich” or “corporate America”—compose a particular interest that corrupts American government, thereby preventing a redistribution of wealth that would realize the Progressive dream of an egalitarian nation. The symbol and means of that corruption is private spending on elections and politics. For Progressives government is both the victim of these private interests and the solution to their dangerous particularity. If government heavily regulates or eliminates private interests (and thus private spending) in politics, the common interest in egalitarian economic outcomes will be vindicated. Progressives see government as a benevolent force that overcomes the threat posed by private interests fostered by the market economy.

Madisonians think government is the problem. They identify the general interest with liberty and hence with natural rights recognized by an empowered and limited government. The greatest threat to that general interest is a predatory majority bent on abrogating a minority’s right to life, liberty, or property. The founders designed the U.S. Constitution to protect that general interest against that threat. But they did not look to government to impose a substantive notion of the general interest by suppressing particular interests. Instead, Madison and others proposed a political structure that would set interests into conflict, thereby limiting government and preserving liberty. The First Amendment reflects that strategy: particular interests have a right to be heard in the national debate. The Madisonian vision suggests another problematic particular interest: the government itself. Instead of assuming that only economic elites threaten democracy, we might also consider the danger posed by those who have political power.

So is this just a Conservative/Progressive philosophical debate? Perhaps, but it is no longer just a debate. With this law the majority (with more time than money) has waged a coup against the minority (i.e., the productive group with more money to spend on politics than time):

In recent history, Republicans have generally raised more money than have Democrats. Republicans have also relied more heavily on money to fight elections. In contrast, Democrats can count on unpaid labor provided by members of their coalition and favorable free coverage by a largely sympathetic national media. Neither volunteers nor the media have been seriously regulated by campaign finance laws. By reducing a Republican advantage while ignoring a Democratic strength, campaign finance law has generally biased elections toward the Democrats.

(Granted, Samples makes deeper arguments in this book.  E.g., “The conflict of visions in campaign finance struggles pits Progressives against Madisonians. The conflict of interests, on the other hand, set insiders against outsiders”)



1. -h in Alaska - November 9, 2007

Very nice points, Dave. They’re taking the free market out of politics.

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