Outlawing peaceful activities, such as the ability of corporations to donate money to politicians, will only drive the activity underground. If you have been paying any attention to the headlines, you are probably aware of Bernie Sanders efforts to reform campaign finance. He introduced a bill in the senate which would reverse Citizens United v. FEC, a piece of legislation allowing corporations to make massive donations to their favorite political candidates under the logic that corporations are people and as such their donations classify as “self-expression” protected under the first amendment.
The political left is always criticising those on the right, especially libertarians, for being too “trusting” or “confident” in the American people’s propensity to do the right thing. They use this argument to defend their welfare state policies. Their assumption is that people, when left to their own devices, will not share with one another and help each other out. Therefore, they must be forced to do so. In the case of campaign finance reform, however, the left’s lack of faith in the goodness of people is resurrected. Somehow, big corporations (which are comprised of people) can now be trusted to obey a law which would prohibit them from financially supporting their favorite politicians. Somehow, by making it illegal for corporations to make donations, the problem of corruption in politics will be solved. No big deal. This strategy has always worked in the past, right? Not so fast, remember prohibition, abortion, gay marriage, and gun laws? Any time politicians try to reshape how people behave by prohibiting or rationing something we do or use, all we get is more of the same behavior, but with more complications. The behaviors get pushed underground and out of sight. In essence, they take a problem and make it worse by having to finance and staff an entire new department to enforce the new law which is not going to be followed anyway; not to mention the host of other laws which will be broken and by necessity prosecuted as a result of underground disputes among illegal bidders.
Undeniably, something must done about campaign finance. This current system is consolidating power in Washington among a select few of colluding politicians and businessmen. However, does it really make sense to simply tell the bidders at the auction that bidding is not allowed but then neglect closing the auction? As long as there is something to buy, bidders will always line up. The solution to corruption in politics is not to forbid the corruption. The solution is to stop pimping out the government to whoever is willing to pay the most for its usage. Politicians are like brokers. They are the middleman between you and the government. You tell them what you want from the government and they go and get for you… if you can afford their fee. This problem will only be solved when government is scaled back and limited in what it can do for anyone. When the product is out of stock, there will be no more bidders. As soon as the government provides something for one person, another person will expect the same. This is why government should not be asked to do any more than protect basic human rights to life, liberty, and property; anymore, and the likelihood for corruption escalates exponentially.
Bernie Sanders wants to make campaign finance publically funded. That means our tax dollars would also go to sponsor political candidates during elections. Candidates would still have to raise a small portion of their funds from small donors in their communities in order to qualify for the “Fair Elections Funds” as it is so affectionately being called. This will solve nothing. As I have already said, it will only drive corruption underground and big money will still be funnelled into politics in other ways. Bernie does, however, manage to add one more atrocity to the list. Under his proposed public funding of campaigns, you and I are robbed of our liberty of association. Under his plan, we must relinquish more of our resources for something regardless of whether we want it or not. As per usual, politician’s solutions are superficial at best and fail to address root causes. It is up to us to stop asking of our government and instead start putting more pressure on politicians to stick to their legitimate duties. This will ultimately change the culture in Washington and the results we experience in our everyday lives.