Friday, December 14, 2007

Socialized Campaign Financing

Rick Essenberg at Shark and Shephard shares thoughts on campign finance reform.

I hope from my title you can tell I oppose it. It is my belief previous campaign finance reforms have done nothing to make things more transparent and accessible and have only further shut the doors to the hall of power.

I have a number of objections to socialized campaign financing (SCF).

The first is the plain old First Amendment to our constitution and the less plain purpose of the constitution. Government shall not infringe upon Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech. When you tell groups or candidates how much they can spend on getting their message out you are restricting their freedom of speech. Dress it up all you want, but speech takes money and if a campaign wants to get its message out it needs money. If a campaign wants to raise funds to travel in style or eat at the best places in town I suppose I can be talked into something about that, but when a campaign needs to fund a staff and a promotions campaign I am off of your message.

The desire in a sizable number of SCF proponents is to muzzle side not-us. They say lobby XYZ is clobbering us in the polls we have to do something. Sorry, that is not the government's job to correct, even if the lobby XYZ is a group I oppose.

How does the government decide who does and does not get funds? How do we determine if someone mounting a campaign is serious or not? Recently a "candidate for president" received public funds, but honestly the candidate seemed more interested in living high on the taxpayer's dime than getting the office.

This invites (don't say begs the question!) the next question. Does it make sense for the government to decide who can or can not get into government? Is this not the sorta thing more appropriate for a snoooty country club? This is downright scary. People who normally fear W is listening to their boring conversations about organizing Dennis Kucinich's next fest are now suddenly okay with handing over the means of getting into government to the – government. Do you not believe some self-selection may happen?

My next objection is summarized by the following quotation: To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. Question, do you believe it would have been morally correct to compel Frederick Douglass to fund pro-slavery candidates? I guess you agree with me, so why force pro-abortion forces to fund the likes of Mike Huckabee?

My last objection is the disuniting effect such legislation will have.
"No sooner do you set foot on American soil than you find yourself in a sort of tumult," de Tocqueville wrote in his book. "A confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once, each expressing some social requirements." De Tocqueville was amazed at the large number of people active in public affairs. "All around you everything is on the move," he reported. De Tocqueville saw all kinds of people busily planning local projects, choosing representatives and assembling to criticize their leaders. He was especially impressed with New England town meetings where every citizen had the right to vote on public matters.

De Tocqueville thought it remarkable how often Americans joined together in various organizations which he called associations. "Americans of all ages, all stations of life and all types of disposition are forever forming associations," he wrote. "There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand types-religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute."
Source: Constitutional Rights Foundation – The Citizen in de Tocqueville's America
The upshot of one of de Tocqueville's important observations is how easily we Americans form and dissolve associations to do things normally done (in Europe) by the governments.
"Finally, if they want to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling ...they form an association. In every case, at the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government ... in the United States you are sure to find an association."
Source: ibid
That is we form associations to oppose as well as support the government or to push for one policy or the other. Association such as Handgun Control Inc. and the NRA.

When you cripple such organizations you cripple individual citizens ability to lobby and petition our government. Again, Tocqueville discerns the problem
"No sooner do you set foot on American soil than you find yourself in a sort of tumult," de Tocqueville wrote in his book. "A confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once, each expressing some social requirements."
Source: ibid
Even with individuals organized into associations Tocqueville characterizes the American political discussion as a confused clamor. If the government is able to cut off citizen's ability to organize to support candidates and policies as is our God-given right then the clamor will become easily ignorable white noise, millions of voices canceling each other out.

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