Campaign finance depression

Robert Clayton Dean has fallen into a deep depression over the Supreme Court's recent ruling allowing the government to ban "soft money". After some self-medication, he makes a lengthy argument that this sort of regulation is a violation of free speech.

Yet campaign finance regulation is nothing more than state limitations on the use of resources to distribute political speech, which is to say, state limitations on political speech. No one would say that a prohibition on expenditures by a publisher to print and mail a magazine, or on a publisher charging for subscriptions or advertising, are consistent with freedom of speech, yet these limitations are closely analogous to the campaign finance restrictions now blessed by the Supreme Court.

As I prefer to make my arguments based on first principles, all rights, in my view, are negative property rights. This includes the right to free speech, with is the right to use my mind and body (my property) to produce noises, which typically does not aggress on the property rights of others unless we're in a crowded theater. With this in mind, I agree with RC, to a point. I should have the ability to freely associate with anyone I desire, and to freely exchange my money (my property) with others in return for goods and services.

However, suppose I exchange my money for the service of killing another individual. Or less malignantly, suppose I exchange my money for the service of defrauding another individual. Or stealing and extorting from another individual. Is that still moral, and should I have the 'property right' to make that exchange?

When I look around the US political landscape today, I see politicians being bribed daily for special interests and pork barrel legislation. Property rights are routinely shredded. Children are threatened and demeaned. The socialization of various industries grows in response to donations from various associations. There is extortion and fraud being carried out on a regular basis, and yes, even outright murder periodically. Each and every one of these activities are at least partially influenced by "soft money".

Although I am skeptical that this ruling will have much effect on these activites because in practice more government is rarely the answer to big government, I don't see it as quite the negative that RC Dean does.

Help me out folks - Why should a libertarian go into a depression over the fact that such activities might be less funded than before?

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I'm not saying I disagree

I'm not saying I disagree with you Jon, but by that logic, voting is an act of violence. I happen to believe that is true, but I don't know if you do.

I'm also a first-principles kinda gal--I'm a math person, so I like stuff I can derive from that smallest number of assumptions possible. That's why I like rights theory--all you have to stipulate is that every human owns his own body, and liberty and property become axiomatic.

However, suppose I exchange my money for the service of killing another individual. Or less malignantly, suppose I exchange my money for the service of defrauding another individual. Or stealing and extorting from another individual. Is that still moral, and should I have the 'property right' to make that exchange?

I think the answer to that question is no, you do not have the right to that exchange, because what you're buying is not the seller's to sell. It's analogous to (knowingly) buying stolen property.

However, I have to say that just because a particular action has the *potential* to violate rights, it doesn't necessarily mean that it *will* be used that way. That said, however, I think you know that I believe that *everything* the government does violates rights.

Help me out folks - Why should a libertarian go into a depression over the fact that such activities might be less funded than before?

There are plenty of (L/l)ibertarians out there who think the political system can be reformed from within, and they correctly perceive that this kind of law can be used to squelch their own attempts to use the political means. That's the only reason I can think of.

" Why should a libertarian

" Why should a libertarian go into a depression over the fact that such activities might be less funded than before?"

I'm not depressed or arguing for depression but price fixing can't improve the market for political force.

I'm not depressed or arguing

I'm not depressed or arguing for depression but price fixing can't improve the market for political force.

Why do you want to improve the market for political force? Wanting to improve the market for security I can understand, but this is the opposite - the market for violence.

The problem of regaining

The problem of regaining your liberty is that it can be done via two ways, persuasion or violence. You can convince your oppressor to stop oppressing you or you can kill him (or use lesser violence to coerce him). Restraining political speech reduces the opportunity to use persuasion and leaves only violence in the end. We've gotten one step closer to that very ugly alternative.

That's a sad day for anybody who loves liberty.

The problem of regaining

The problem of regaining your liberty is that it can be done via two ways, persuasion or violence.

There is a third, perhaps more promising way - escape.

You can convince your oppressor to stop oppressing you or you can kill him (or use lesser violence to coerce him).

I would call that self-defense, not coercion, which I usually take to mean initiation of violence.

Restraining political speech reduces the opportunity to use persuasion and leaves only violence in the end. We've gotten one step closer to that very ugly alternative.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding. You are saying that you can give money to your oppressor so that he does not oppress you. That sounds a lot like taxation, extortion, robbery, etc. I continue to call that oppression since I still have to pay him to leave me alone. I don't see how that fits into the category of "persuasion".

I think it's pretty silly to

I think it's pretty silly to associate free spending with free speech, but regardless, I can give you a reason you should be depressed:
this ruling will just create governmental opacity. Soft Money will flow to independant agencies which do everything a party does but without being a party. They won't be regulated or traceable. You can already find suggestions of this in the news.

I think the net effect is to decrease the significance of party identification, which is something that the democrats desperately want to decrease, I would imagine.

Just because some or maybe

Just because some or maybe almost ALL the players are immoral should not exclude an honest indiviual or group from being able to participate to any extent they feel they can/should. Limiting campaign finance will do absolutely nothing to stop undue influence, and will push it into a worse subterreanean morass than it already is. The long run outcome of this 'well meaning'(sarcastic) legislation will be to limit unpopular opinions from being spread. They like it that way. Everything crazy facist thing liberals and democrats do is always couched in terms of 'fairness and equal opportunity'.

"Why do you want to improve

"Why do you want to improve the market for political force?"

I'm speaking of improvement measured by the standard of my life.

"The problem of regaining

"The problem of regaining your liberty is that it can be done via two ways, persuasion or violence. You can convince your oppressor to stop oppressing you or you can kill him (or use lesser violence to coerce him). "

Consider the way of the porcupine.

"... the essential objective in any conflict is neither to defeat your enemy nor to make it impossible for him to defeat you but merely to make it no longer in his interest to do whatever it is that you object to..." - David Friedman

"There is a third, perhaps

"There is a third, perhaps more promising way - escape."

I think I remember this from Friedman too:

A Biologist and an Economist are camping in the wilderness. Suddenly a grizzly bear charges into their camp. The Economist takes off running.

The Biologist says "There's no point in running, you can't outrun a grizzly bear."

The Economist calls back over his shoulder "I only have to outrun a Biologist..."

I may be mistaken, but as

I may be mistaken, but as far as I know this legislation also prohibits political advertising a few weeks before an election. Even if you don't approve of the political process, this should be discouraging, for now people can't even criticize politicians without being subject to prohibitive regulations.

If this is the case, I don't see how anyone could disagree that it is a violation of free speech. Incidentally, I was somewhat surprised that Justice Ginsburg signed on to the opinion, considering her background with the ACLU (which opposed this form of campaign finance legistlation.)

And as matt said, this legislation will probably not actually accomplish the intended objectives; instead, people will just find loopholes by which to funnel money to candidates. Without strict and far-reaching prohibitions on any and all legislation that even mentions a politician or candidate by name, I don't see how any campaign finance reform will work. (Not that I would want it to.)

I may be mistaken, but as

I may be mistaken, but as far as I know this legislation also prohibits political advertising a few weeks before an election. Even if you don't approve of the political process, this should be discouraging, for now people can't even criticize politicians without being subject to prohibitive regulations.

If this is the case, I don't see how anyone could disagree that it is a violation of free speech. [...]

I agree. Banning issue ads is very clearly a violation of the right to free speech.

My question was more on the topic of soft money as 'speech'.

What exactly is the

What exactly is the definition of "soft money"? I know hard money is money given directly to the candidates. Is soft money simply money given to the parties, or does it also include money given to political action committees like the ACLU and the NRA? Does it also include indirect gifts to candidates in the form of advertising?

Also, I just remembered one more reason to oppose campaign finance reform, even if you don't approve of the political process. Any reform will strengthen the power of incumbency, because incumbants already have the huge advantage of name recognition relative to challengers.

Also, I just remembered one

Also, I just remembered one more reason to oppose campaign finance reform, even if you don't approve of the political process.

It's not that I don't approve of the political process, but that I see it as ultimately futile to try to bring change through political means. That's why I respond with a sort of 'ho-hum' attitude about all this. My dreams are not shattered.

soft and hard money are just

soft and hard money are just "unregulated" and "Regulated" respectively. PAC money contributions can be either, though I believe they are typically hard money (because PACs aren't that strong relative to other methods.) Money donated to parties and not spent on direct candidate advocacy (and a few other requirements) is unregulated. It can be used for get out the vote drives, organization, "informative ads" which don't contain certain magic words. Up until 2002 anyway.

So do you see any free

So do you see any free speech problems with regulating certain magic words in political ads, matt?

Yes, I do. I think it's

Yes, I do. I think it's troubling, but leaving it unregulated (or at least unchecked) is also problematic.

I want to write a short guest blog on Rothbard called "man, economy and state" with the man part crossed out, if you guys'll let me, along these same lines. I hesitate to elaborate here, lest I give myself away.

Basically I think free air time and tax credits for 250 dollar donations are the way to solve the problem. It could turn everyday citizens into political investors, and make grassroots organizing significantly more meaningful.

I'm all for you writing a

I'm all for you writing a short guest blog, though I'm not sure what the others here think. Email Jonathan and ask.

Who pays for this "free air time"? If you force the radio and television stations to air it, it is not free, because they must give up lost revenue in order to do so. Opportunity cost is still cost.

Further, unless you implement a command-and-control system for regulating political advertisements, those with more money will continue to have a decisive advantage. Free air time and $250 tax credits isn't going to do much to change that, except maybe at the very margins.

we disagree over this. For

we disagree over this. For one thing, broadcast liscences can be granted conditionally. It's only "cost" if you assume that the time is absolutely theirs, not conditionally.

I think tax credits could do wonders- it's been suggested by a few notable political scientists who are very knowledgable in the area, among them Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers. You don't have to win monetarily in an election, you just have to compete. You compete by appealing to different financial bases, each with their own limited interests. If you could make one such financial base "the general populace" you could pole vault over the rickety shack of private money in elections. Besides, don't you libertarians love tax credits?