Not so good on this…

The L.A. Times also ran this piece. Shorter version: Let’s make it illegal to donate money to any politician not pre-approved by the ruling parties. What could go wrong?

Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    I read this:

    Our typical day would include breakfast schmoozing, closing on a few donors by telephone, a VIP luncheon, a handful of private afternoon meetings, a meet ‘n’ greet cocktail party and then one or maybe even two splashy dinners. Capped off with a quickie late-night cigar or dessert reception.

    and was very disappointed when the second sentence kept going past “quickie.”

  2. Jeff says:

    Oh, and any time someone includes “patriot” or some such term in a policy idea, they’re selling you B.S. It’s a natural law.

  3. Barzelay says:

    If they could work it so that it wasn’t limited to major parties (and I doubt they could, depending on how one defines ‘major’), I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

    Who says people with more money should have more political sway? I know that our current system includes contributions in the first amendment arena, but I don’t know why that’s demonstrably better than a system where everyone has an equal amount of campaign capital to contribute. What benefits are we trying to demonstrate?

    Similarly, while the idea of “one person, one vote” currently holds sway (even if the reality is more complex), I can’t see why that is objectively better than a system that modifies that voting paradigm. Better for whom? Why shouldn’t property owners get two votes, or those with a college degree, or those not on the terrorist watch list?

    Our voting paradigm has to be tied to our values. We may have a value as a society that intelligent, motivated, entrepreneurial, lucky individuals should be able to drift upward in society. And so we don’t want to give a stronger vote to property owners because the resulting policies will tend to preserve the status quo of property ownership.

    And we may see it as valuable or moral that individuals who have been financially successful, or whose ancestors have been financially successful, should have greater political power. It probably acts, for obvious and less obvious reasons, as an incentive to individuals to be productive, and to acquire wealth by doing so.

    But while wealth creation is one goal–it’s not the only goal. Not everyone thinks that should be the ultimate goal of the system we choose to put into place. And it’s unclear that allowing people to use their acquired wealth to influence politics tends to lead us toward our other goals. The system proposed in that piece is not necessarily bad, it’s just a system that supports other goals. What are the goals of your proposed election system (aside from the value of, i.e. giving people the freedom to use their money however they want to)? What norms are you trying to promote?

    Say that one of our other goals is to improve the quality of life of even the less intelligent, less motivated, less socialized, less financially successful people. Unless that happens to be the goal of the wealthy individuals able to make significant campaign contributions, the current system will tend to suppress that goal. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing that the most successful individuals in society are those whose goals get promoted. That system is an extremely successful normative system. I’m just saying that it’s only one way to do it, and I don’t see why it can be thought of as “better” except by reference to the incentives we want to give people for how to live their lives.

    Not everyone agrees what those incentives should be, but they’re an aspect of these debates that are almost never discussed. Yes, in the name of “freedom,” and “free speech,” and “patriotism,” we can argue both ways, but let’s get down to the root of it. What kinds of values, lifestyles, and norms are we trying to promote?

  4. RD says:

    That would put us political consultants, err, fundraisers, out of a job, and quickly and simply revolutionize the gridlocked political system.

    I don’t think this follows. You’d still need to (a) get people to bother giving money to ANYBODY, (b) decide they want to give it to YOU, (c) bother to take the action that moves the money from the ATM card to your account, (d) give the money to you instead of all the other candidates vying for that same money.

    Fundraisers could help with all four of these issues.

    Additionally, while there’d be less money in the system, it would now be a zero sum game. Every dollar I give to candidate A can’t go to candidate B, and the jockeying for funding would get much more aggressive, especially between two candidates with similar platforms (or in the same party).

  5. Jacob Grier says:

    The thing I’d be most interested in is how this creates opportunities for profit. Right now if you want someone to contribute to your political campaign, you have to convince them that donating to you is the best thing they can spend their money on. But if it’s the only thing they can spend their money on, this gets considerably easier!

    So let’s say you live in a congressional district that’s gerrymandered securely for one candidate. What’s to stop someone from running a sham opposition campaign that convinces indifferent people to give them their $50? (“Convincing” here could take the form of, say, a $20 bill.) Then you take that donation and use it to buy expensive campaign signs from your brother-in-law’s printing company. You and your brother-in-law have just conspired to take a nice profit.

    Since this profit’s coming out of taxpayer money, the ruling parties aren’t going to be too happy about it. They’re going to pass regulations attempting to separate real candidates from the sham ones. If you think current ballot access laws are tough on outsider candidates, I bet they’d be nothing compared to what we’d see under a regime of “Patriot Dollars.”

    David, you raise good questions. They’d definitely lead to a long debate. For now, I’d just say that I focus less on any particular values of society and more on how to empower government to protect people’s liberties without growing so large that it infringes them — basically the same concerns addresses by the Constitution itself.

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