Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Alethiometry

Laissez-faire Capitalism And Campaign Contributions

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

I was having a discussion with a friend (who is also a moderate liberal) today about capitalism and I had to leave before I could finish my argument. I've been thinking about it all day and I don't have a clear answer to his final inquiry, which was:

" So what happens to campaign contributions with regards to corporations in a LFC system? Wouldn't industries and corporations essentially be able to buy candidates and control the government if there were no limits or regulations placed on how much one could contribute to local and national politicians?"

I had some difficulty explaining why this kind of regulation was wrong. If anyone could enlighten me about how LFC and Objectivism pertain to this issue, I'd appreciate it so I can give my friend a concrete answer to his question. Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
" So what happens to campaign contributions with regards to corporations in a LFC system? Wouldn't industries and corporations essentially be able to buy candidates and control the government if there were no limits or regulations placed on how much one could contribute to local and national politicians?"

If the government is constitutionally unable to interfere with anything about industry, why is this a problem? What motive would, say, Halliburton have in buying off the government except to protect against regulation and/or regulate competitors out of business?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly. If the government has no power to help any specific person or group of people, what would buying a politician gain you?

What about a judge, though? What keeps their decisions unbiased and rational? Or does the appeal process provide the necessary check to a crooked judge?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Exactly. If the government has no power to help any specific person or group of people, what would buying a politician gain you?

What about a judge, though? What keeps their decisions unbiased and rational? Or does the appeal process provide the necessary check to a crooked judge?

Clearly there would have to be a system in place where corrupt judges where removed from power and heavily punished for such behaviour, so if it did arise (and I suppose it would from time to time), the impact of such would be minimised.

There could perhaps be a rigorous screening process (this sort of thing could place to some extent or how rigourous it might be, I dont really know much about that aspect of the matter in regards to the americian legal system) involved in appointing a judge, so to have some idea of the likelihood of the judge being crooked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not entirely true that a LFC government will offer no incentive for profit for private individuals, but the amount to be gained by access to government will be significantly reduced.

The government will still need to purchase weapons and supplies from the private sector, but any dangers bribery may cause can be mitigated by open bidding processes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the problems with the question is that it presupposes that voters are mindless sheep, who will vote for whoever spends the most money in an election. Now suppose that there were a massive sea change in society, with the result that a rational government of laissez-faire capitalists were put in office, with the people knowing full well that the days of pull and corruption were over; that the only thing the government would be doing is protecting the rights of people. Then "buying" a politician would have no effect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One of the problems with the question is that it presupposes that voters are mindless sheep, who will vote for whoever spends the most money in an election.

Even without a massive sea-change in the nature of the voting public, it just isn't true that the candidate or party that spends the most money wins. If it were then Steve Forbes would probably be President today. Or consider that all together the Democrats outspent the Republicans in the 2004 election cycle, but the Republicans clearly won the election on just about every level.

The only thing money lets you do is broadcast your message more widely. If the public doesn't like what you have to say, though, that doesn't help you win votes.

You might also point out that, in general, attempts to keep money out of political campaigns cannot be limited to just money. Money, by definition, can be used to buy other things -- and that means that in terms of their ability to aid campaigns, other things can be substituted for money. If you restrict the ability to donate money to campaigns, you're eventually driven to restrict so-called 'in-kind' donations. The end of that path (and we're closer to it than you think) is the FEC trying to figure out and regulate the 'value' to a campaign of my own unsolicited statements put up on my own website -- i.e. the total destruction of political free speech.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One of the problems with the question is that it presupposes that voters are mindless sheep, who will vote for whoever spends the most money in an election.

There are many examples to illustrate your point such as the recent presidential election when the "liberals" outspent the Republicans, financed by wealthy individuals such as George Soros, in groups like MoveOn.org

Also, why assume the spending will be all one way? If the issue is important enough the opposing groups will be able to raise large sums from their supporters. Even if it is not equal and even if one side spends more than the other, that won't necessarily counter-balance the most effectively presented argument. You just need to be heard and you don't necessarily need vast sums to accomplish that. I don't think it matters anyway - and it may even be a turn-off - if you barrage your audience with your message.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
" So what happens to campaign contributions with regards to corporations in a LFC system? Wouldn't industries and corporations essentially be able to buy candidates and control the government if there were no limits or regulations placed on how much one could contribute to local and national politicians?"

If your friend is suggesting that corrupt politicians(or judges for that matter) would be more common in a LFC system, then I would say that he/she is making a wild assumption. Look at the world. Corruption breeds where there is LESS freedom, not more. In the old USSR, corruption was widespread. The same is true in China, Cuba, Iran, and everywhere else there is a dictatorial regime in place. While there may be corruption in the US, it is far less pervasive and far more apt to be discovered and punished.

Why is this? I believe that it is because, as has been stated above, the more dictatorial/socialist a society becomes, the more there is to gain by bribery, influence peddling and extortion of politicians. Where politicians have limited power, there is less incentive to corruption. Further, where there is more freedom, there is generally more transparency in government, which aids in the deterrence and discovery of corruption. The fact that the public is aware that large sums of money have been provided to a politician by a particular interest is likely to influence voting patterns and that type of information is always more available in a free society than it is in a socialist one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

The only thing money lets you do is broadcast your message more widely. If the public doesn't like what you have to say, though, that doesn't help you win votes.

...

Absolutely right.

Those who advocate limits on campaign contributions seem to be under the impression that whoever can spend the most money on his cause will triumph. More generally, this is the idea that it is money that moves history. (This view is sometimes stated cynically as "Follow the money.")

But history is not moved by money. Human history is moved by ideas. A good exploration of an example of history being moved by fundamental ideas is Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels.

Other people in this thread have already given examples of political candidates and causes whose backers have spent money to try to win elections, but failed. I myself can think of plenty of examples in local politics in which the losing side has spent much more money than the winning side.

People ignore advertising all the time. They ignore junk literature handed out by religious fringe groups - it just ends up in the trash can. They're also quite capable of making up their own minds about whom to vote for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Other people in this thread have already given examples of political candidates and causes whose backers have spent money to try to win elections, but failed. I myself can think of plenty of examples in local politics in which the losing side has spent much more money than the winning side.

Another good example, from the opposite side, was the Swift Boat Vets from the 2004 election. They started out with very little money, but once their charges got some traction they were able to pull in a lot of cash from people who agreed with their ideas. This small group that started out with something like a quarter of a million dollars was able to derails tens of millions of dollars worth of advertising from the Kerry campaign and its supporters. Arguably they changed the outcome of the election.

Dollars aren't fundamental. Ideas and arguments are.

People ignore advertising all the time. They ignore junk literature handed out by religious fringe groups - it just ends up in the trash can. They're also quite capable of making up their own minds about whom to vote for.

There's been some research in marketing that indicates that the more ads a person sees for a product they dislike, the more strongly they dislike it. Saturation advertising tends to cement previously-existing attitudes in place rather than sway the undecided.

As a final thought, there may be some milage to be made in the argument by taking the implicit "the public are sheep and easily swayed" premise held by the advocates of campaign regulation and making it explicit. It's really a very elitist attitude, and sometimes liberals are reluctant to acknowledge they hold it if pressed. Identifying it clearly sows the seeds of cognitive dissonance in the opposition, which is always a worthwhile activity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It's not entirely true that a LFC government will offer no incentive for profit for private individuals, but the amount to be gained by access to government will be significantly reduced.

The government will still need to purchase weapons and supplies from the private sector, but any dangers bribery may cause can be mitigated by open bidding processes.

So, for example, you're suggesting that some particular corporation could spend an enormous amount on the campaign of a particular government official who, in return would select that company's inflated tender over another company's for some government contract or other?

Not sure how you think that would escape the attention of a free nation of people. The press would swarm, the checks and balances would start the alarm bells ringing, voluntary contributions to the government may be withdrawn, the opposing government would cry foul.

One example way to manage this would be to separate the opex and capex budgets for the government. And for all large capital expenditures of the government to be proposed by the government and then citizens would offer pledges of money towards them. Ie. the government would be prevented from spending out of its operating funds.

Obviously if it awarded the contract to someone who was going to charge a lot more than the other tenderers for no gain, then it would not receive the pledges for the expenditure. I'm sure there are many other ways of preventing such a thing from happening. Such is the nature of a government of law, not of men.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, for example, you're suggesting that some particular corporation could spend an enormous amount on the campaign of a particular government official who, in return would select that company's inflated tender over another company's for some government contract or other?

It could happen.

Not sure how you think that would escape the attention of a free nation of people. The press would swarm, the checks and balances would start the alarm bells ringing, voluntary contributions to the government may be withdrawn, the opposing government would cry foul.

Which was my point: Mechanisms could be put in place to protect against such behavior.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bribery and Extortion have been illegal for hundreds of years. All this stuff about campaign contributions is being promoted as a way to avoid the difficulty of actually proving that bribery or extortion has occurred, by assuming that the appearance of corruption is tantamount to the reality of corruption. That assumption is irrational and immoral.

Furthermore, in the case where the government official is a legislator, they are trying to enact a contradiction. The legislators are SUPPOSED to represent private interests, i.e. the voters. Yet they are being condemned for doing just that.

What about a judge, though? What keeps their decisions unbiased and rational? Or does the appeal process provide the necessary check to a crooked judge?

Judges can be and sometimes are convicted of accepting bribes or extorting them from those over whom they have power. Usually, they are forced to resign as part of the penalty. In cases where they refuse to resign, Congress impeaches and convicts them and removes them from office.

If a judge is merely incompetent or goes against public policy and continues to do so even when over-ruled on appeal, the scheduling official can steer cases where he is likely to misbehave away from him. (One of you lawyers correct me, if I am wrong here.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...