Public Financing of Political Campaigns
By Arnold Kling
Do Kling and Schulz think that interest groups can have that much influence over the outcomes of elections — so much influence that the Democrats will have a near lock on power? If so, shouldn’t they support public financing or other very tough reforms to limit the political power of economic elites?
No, but thanks for playing.
As I recall, “earmarks” are $18 billion. What are they other than publicly financed political contributions? But my guess is that this greatly under-estimates the amount of spending that is made purely for re-election purposes.
As a solution for the problem of entrenched political power, “public financing” and “tough reforms” are fox-in-charge-of-the-henhouse ideas. Ultimately, campaign reform gives you government of the incumbents, by the incumbents, for the incumbents.
The traditional libertarian solution for corrupt government is Constitutional restrictions on government activity. Smaller government means smaller scope for corruption.
I am not sure I believe that the traditional libertarian solution works. I suspect that what really makes for limited government is the opportunity for exit. In the early 1800’s, it was possible for an American to pick up and move to a remote area where government had very little impact. That possibility tended to limit the power of the central government.
I think that the big challenge for libertarians is to create conditions that enable people to exit from overbearing government. Patri Friedman’s idea is seasteading. I am a skeptic on that one.
I think we need to boost the organizations of civil society that compete with government: private schools, private firms, charities, neighborhood associations, and groups that supply public goods using the “open source” model. The term “civil societarian” is one that I coined, at least according to Wikipedia, which is itself an example of an open-source public good.
A key to averting the loss of civil society is to overcome the progressive ideology championed by Chait. That ideology amounts to an all-out assault on civil society. Picture civil society as a nice lawn, and picture government as a weed. As the weed grows, the lawn gets wiped out. Civil Societarianism is the ideology that tries to grow the lawn. Progressivism is the ideology that tries to grow the weed.
Progressive campaign reform serves to shrink the ability to form competitive political organizations. It is yet another technique for killing the lawn.
UPDATE: Nick recommends a speech by Carl Schramm. Nick has most of the excerpts that are relevant to this thread.