Category Archives: Election ’12

The Basic Premise Behind Campaign Finance Laws

A great deal of ink (or film, or bits) has been expended this election cycle, primarily on the far left (though some on the right… particularly with the more populist factions), decrying the actions of “independent” political action committees, superPACs, and “issue advocacy groups”; as somehow corrupt, evil, anti-democratic etc..

The rhetoric on the left, is that the “citizens united” decision has basically given “shadowy actors” like say, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, effectively a blank check to “buy elections”.

Of course, the idea that we need to “get the money out of politics” has been a political meme for approximately as long as politics has existed…

… and to a degree, there is a point there. ACTUAL political corruption, in the sense of directly buying influence or buying votes; is certainly something we need to combat as much as possible.

We’ll never eliminate it of course, humans have an endless capacity for venality, greed, and self interest. That’s just the way it is…

Frankly, the only way to get money out of politics; is to get politics out of money.

By which I mean, that so long as politics has an impact on my business and my life (and it always will); if I have money, I’m going to have a strong incentive to spend it, to make the political process work to my advantage… Or even just to hurt me less.

And that’s the way it SHOULD be… I SHOULD be able to spend my money to reduce the harm that government does to me, or to try to make government come out to my advantage; so long as I am not actually bribing a legislator to vote the way I want, committing fraud etc…

There’s a simple way of combating this; and that’s reducing the power of government to impact the individual, such that they no longer have any incentive (or really, so that their incentive is lower… since you’ll never get that little political interference) to spend their money in that way.

But that’s not what these folks are decrying from the hilltops.

What they are screaming about, is essentially free speech they don’t like.

Make no mistake, money IS speech. If you don’t have money, you can’t buy media air time. If you can’t buy media air time, then you can say whatever you want, but you’ll be speaking to an empty room.

One of the basic principles of free speech, is that you have the right to say whatever you like (short of libel, slander, fraud, or incitement to crime); so long as you are not infringing on others rights by doing so.

Another one of those basic principles is that you have the right to say it… But I don’t have to listen to it, and you don’t have the right to make me.

It’s up to me, to decide who and what I listen to, and to use my own judgement and experience in doing so.

So, you may not like what these people are saying; but so long as media companies are willing to sell them airtime, you have no right to restrict that. By attempting to do so, you are attempting to regulate free speech (conversely, you also have no right to force those media companies to sell time to opposing viewpoints; another leftist canard about “fairness”).

Makes sense right?

Well, it does to me… and to the supreme court; and when it’s causes that leftists agree with they’re perfectly OK with it.

The REAL argument, comes down to this:

“We can’t allow these bad evil people and groups to speak, because although I’m smart enough to know the difference between lies and truth, the general population are too stupid to do so”

So, rather than actually convince the people of their own side of the argument, they seek to prevent the other side from even speaking.

It’s entirely consistent with the historical leftist narrative that the “proletariat is fooled by the comfortable goods of the bourgeoisie and the lies of the ruling class” etc… etc…

Their basic premise here being that if the people could only hear and understand the truth, that the leftists ideas would be universally acclaimed as true and necessary, and immediately put into place (with the leftist elites themselves in charge of course… after all, who better to lead than those who understand the ideas the best).

They can’t accept the idea that maybe people don’t WANT more government, with more power over everyone’s lives and businesses… Because that would go entirely against the ideas they have based their entire lives and identities on; and that simply can’t be possible.

…but that’s another argument entirely.

Oh and I should note that there is a “right wing” authoritarian narrative that is nearly identical in principle, that the people are too stupid, lazy, corrupt etc… To be trusted to make their own MORAL decisions; and that the force of government must be used to make people “do the right thing”. That’s equally as bad; it’s just not what we’re talking about right now.

Now… I hate these ads as much as everyone else… But not because I decry “those fools actually believe these foul lies” (though they may be foul lies, and “the people” may believe them); simply because they’re REALLY IRRITATING.

If the people actually are so stupid that they believe “foul lies”; and the other side isn’t smart enough, or doesn’t have a good enough argument to convince them otherwise…

Well, so be it.

That’s the problem with a democratic representative republic. You have to live with the representatives the electorate choose, and the things they vote for.

It’s also why it’s so critical that we have a strictly limited government of enumerated powers only… Or rather, that we return to that; as we haven’t actually had such a government since 1861.

Our government was intended to provide protection against the tyranny of the majority… Unfortunately from the first day that government was put in place, people with “good ideas” have attempted to (often successfully) use the force of government, to have those ideas implemented, without regard to the legitimate powers of government, the desire of the people, or the rights of those being governed.

The left are perfectly willing to crow about how great democracy is… until the people refuse to vote for what they want; at which point they try to get the courts to make the people do what they want anyway.

Because, as we all know, when it comes to leftist causes, they are all “moral imperatives”…

Or as a very smart man put it once “The ends justify the means”.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Why Democracy Doesn’t Work, Evidence #1,083

Over at Ezra Klein’s place, Dylan Matthews points to the fact that elections are driven by the economy (and in some years, by war). And that George McGovern, who died yesterday, gets a bit of a bad rap based on the fact that he was up against an incumbent President presiding over a rapidly-expanding economy and a major drop in Vietnam casualties during his first term.

He points to a model from political scientist Douglas Hibbs, called the “Bread & Peace” model. And uses this chart as a telling guide:

Seems pretty clear to me. When the economy is doing well, the incumbents do well. When the economy is in the crapper, the incumbents get tossed out.

That makes perfect sense if we assume that the incumbent party (Congress or the President) has a big impact on the performance of the national economy. But I don’t think there’s any evidence to support this. Business cycles tend to occur in many ways orthogonal to political cycles. Policy tends to have long-running effects on the economy, but it’s measured in decades, not electoral cycles.

It’s pretty clear that voters are not really answering the question of “who is more qualified to lead us?”, or even “who has better policies?” The question they’re answering is merely “am I doing good right now? If not, whoever is in charge is obviously to blame!” Which causes me to ask a question (one Dylan Matthews doesn’t think to ask): if elections are driven by factors often widely outside the realm of short-term election cycles, why exactly do we think that elections are a good way to decide who to put into power?

About the only acceptable answer to that question that I can find is “it’s a better system than any others we’ve tried.” Frankly, such an answer doesn’t inspire confidence.

And further, when elections are driven by forces outside the candidates’ control, how exactly can we sit idly by and let politicians claim a mandate for their policies based upon the fact that they’ve won office? Voters don’t know what will fix the economy (nor do most politicians, frankly). But I guarantee that if Romney wins, it will be claimed as a mandate that the policies of Obama are to blame for our failure to generate an economic recovery, and that Romney’s policies are much better for all of us*.

Every four years, America goes through a big circle jerk to congratulate ourselves for “freedom” and representative democracy. After all, we get to choose who represents us in Washington and we have an inherent assumption that the fact that we’ve voted for them indicates that we have given them a vote of confidence. Yet we have a Congress with a approval rate in the teens and a re-election rate usually well above 90%, and we have Presidential contests that are usually decided based upon the growth of the economy rather than the qualities of the individual candidates.

But when I point out that we, as a people, don’t do a very good job deciding who to send to Washington, so just maybe we should limit the amount of power they’re allowed to wield, I’m suddenly a libertarian extremist?
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Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

Quote of the Day: Small Things Edition

[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

That was then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. This (below) is President Obama’s campaign in 2012:

If ending the federal subsidy to PBS doesn’t qualify as a “small thing” being used to distract from a failing president’s record, I don’t know what does.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye at United Liberty

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