The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Money Buys Elections

Yes, it's true. But this truism is often misconstrued; don't confuse a sufficient condition with a necessary one. Money buys elections likes it buys handguns; you need the money, but you also need the credentials. All the money in the world is not sufficient to buy an office that's worth anything.

Now, if we're going to talk about limiting campaign contributions, we also need to talk about limiting self-funding. If we don't limit the latter, then we shouldn't limit the former. But should we limit the latter? I don't think so.

That someone has successful enough in business to the point where they can finance their own political campaign is in fact a selling point to voters. Many would rather have a captain of industry in office than a career politician.

Of course, none of us wants an aristocracy, where those with wealthy backgrounds can buy positons of power. On the other hand, that someone would finance a campaign with inherited money, without bringing any bona fides to the table, is more likely to be seen by voters as a liability.

Then there is the theory that wealthy industrialists will join government in order it "capture" it. A Ross Perot, for instance, could have pushed an agenda that would better allow his business interests to flourish once he returned to returned to them. Wouldn't the cost of campaigning, as well as the opportunity cost of years of service as an elected official offset this benefit? Wouldn't aggressive lobbying achieve a better ratio of costs to benefits?