Campaign Finance Regulation

Crusaders for political reform cry out that we must keep big money out of politics, for money corrupts and big money corrupts in a big way. The politicians must be allowed to govern honestly and impartially, which ostensibly can only happen when we remove the taint of money used in the transaction of buying and selling favors.

It's true that there are large sums from all over the country and sometimes abroad sent to Washington to buy influence; and influence is undoubtedly bought. The money is not the problem. The problem is that there are favors for the selling in the first place. When a politician has the power to decide which imports are tariffed, which companies constitute a monopoly, which companies should receive corporate welfare, what is considered "safe" for the public and what isn't, etc., the politician is left with no true objective manner for making such decisions. Such decision making remains largely arbitrary, and who contributes how much is as good a way as making them as any.

We could try to pass laws banning monetary contributions to politicians, but with the unlimited powers in place, the politicians would find other ways to grease their palms. Direct payments would become indirect payments in the form of free samples, vacations, cars, services, and the like. It would be much like many top college athletes are paid. "We can't pay you, but if you come play for us, we'll provide you with a car, tutors, and buy your parents a house so they can be nearby." This is just an example of the inescapability of the free market and justice getting around stupid laws. If something is worth money, it will somehow command it despite all the laws a bureaucrat may pass.

The buying and selling of favors will only end when there are no favors to buy and sell. Limit government to its proper role, and businesses and individuals will no longer be forced to pay protection money to politicians in the form of thinly veiled bribes / campaign contributions. When the government and the politician's jobs are to protect rights there will be very little left for interpretation. There will be no lobbying wars and huge amounts of cash exchanged over how best to protect rights. Limit government to its proper role and there will be nothing to lobby for, no favors to sell, and no profit motive to become a politician.

Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands