Monday, June 20, 2005

Public Campaign Financing Is Still a Bad Idea

LaVarr posted a rebuttal by Andy Wilson to my article (see here) opposing public campaign financing. Mr. Wilson’s rebuttal makes it obvious that he is educated, but that he has spelling and grammar issues. It is a lengthy and rambling diatribe that is tedious to read. However, Mr. Wilson makes some good points in support of public campaign financing. Here is a synopsis of his points as far as I can understand them.

  • Politics is about protecting natural rights and pursuing the common interest. It is not a business.

  • OK, politics is a business, but it shouldn’t be. It creates conflicts of interest.

  • Spent $10,000 running for office as a Democrat and lost, so money in politics is bad.

  • Third parties have insufficient opportunity under our current system.

  • We publicly fund many things in the public interest despite the economic value. The same should be true of political campaigns.

  • Groups and businesses currently have an unfair advantage over the public because they over-represent those with more money while under-representing those with less money.

  • The influence of groups and businesses only sometimes coincidentally benefit the public, but it’s bad anyway due to their motives.

  • The people should be able to pass any (I assume, constitutionally sound) law they want, even if it seems loopy.

  • Arizona recently passed fully publicly funded campaigns and that is why the people got a couple of important pieces of legislation passed.

  • Public campaign financing would return the power to the people and would take it away from groups and businesses, so the will of the people would be done.
I don’t fully disagree with Mr. Wilson, but I still don’t believe that public campaign financing is the right thing to do. Here’s my take.

  • The entire political system is not a business, but political campaigns are businesses and are subject to related economic laws. It requires resources to get the word out to gain support among the people. I think campaigns should be operate under a free enterprise model, while Mr. Wilson thinks they should be run under a government control model.

  • Steve Urquhart says, “taxpayers don't want to fund the Party for Niceness to 3-Legged Dogs.” In other words, third parties are free to compete in the marketplace of ideas. While they do influence public policy, they currently are unable to get enough interested supporters to gain many offices. Should I be required to fund my opponent’s campaign?

  • Groups are made up of citizens that have pooled their voices. Banding together to provide a common voice is one of the oldest traditions in our nation. Why should “special interest” groups be denied political access?

  • Businesses act like groups. Citizens support businesses with their dollars. Businesses use some of those dollars to influence public policy. No one is required to support a business that influences policy in ways with which they disagree.

  • I agree with the idea of letting the people pass any constitutionally sound law they want, even if I don’t like it.

  • Granted that under our current system those with more economic power have more ability to influence public policy than those with less economic power. The founders agreed that all men are created equal, but nothing says they stay that way. Our country is built upon providing equality in opportunity, not equality in outcome. Our free market of political ideas helps our give-and-take system of government in its continual struggle to achieve and maintain the proper balance.

  • I maintain that interfering with free enterprise in political campaigns would cause the kinds of problems I mentioned in my post. I also maintain that there is insufficient evidence that public campaign financing would resolve the problems in our current system.

  • I suggest that we wait and see which problems the Arizona system solves and which problems it creates and exacerbates. If the people are then satisfied that the trade-offs are worth it, they can decide to copy that system. I suspect that in the long run the Arizona system will introduce a different set of problems that will prove equally as untenable as our current set of problems.
Our current system of campaign financing is not without its flaws. We should work to correct those flaws. I argue that the free (fully disclosed) flow of money in our political system is the best way to do that. I believe that more government control will not portend to better government.

No comments: