Monday, December 19, 2011

True Conservatives Should Demand Campaign Finance Reform

I can't be the only one who has noticed that those who most vigorously defend and promote the dominance of the One Percent's money in elections also claim to want smaller government.

One of the more perplexing ironies in modern politics, if you ask me. I say that because the system of legal bribery they favor makes the limited government they profess to desire a pipe dream.

Politicians who are constantly in need of deposits into their campaign war chests have a powerful incentive to keep government as big and intrusive as possible. That way, they hold both a carrot and a stick that come in mighty handy for fundraising purposes.

The bigger the government, the more elected officials have at their disposal to reward the generosity of political benefactors. A subsidy here. A no-bid contract for government work there. A juicy slice of political pork today. A hefty tax break tomorrow. That's the carrot. No campaign donations, no political favors. That's the stick.

At the same time, politicians know that many if not most of the biggest campaign donors have an ideological preference for smaller government. Conspiring with their fellow lawmakers to keep government large gives them the ability to go to those donors election after election and promise to get government out of their hair . . . and their wallets. If they actually delivered a smaller government, the sense of urgency to pony up would dissipate and the politicians' leverage would be lost.

When it comes to getting wealthy interests to part company with some of their riches, politicians get 'em coming and going. Sitting at the controls of a big government, they have it in their power to provide donors with a return on investment you can't get on Wall Street in the best bull market. But if public largesse isn't enough of an inducement to cough up a campaign contribution, they can use the implied threat of heavy-handed government intervention to crack open checkbooks. High taxes and burdensome regulation are valuable commodities if you are in the business of shaking the political money tree. They make promises of tax cuts and less red tape possible.

This reality makes it illogical for advocates of limited government to tolerate a campaign finance system featuring privately sponsored candidates for office who inevitably become legally bribed elected officials. If you really believe that government which governs least governs best, you should want anything but the status quo. If you are a libertarian and not allergic to common sense, you should want to remove the irresistible temptation found in the current system for politicians to trade on the size and reach of government to advance their own personal political fortunes.

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