sudden fixation on campaign finance won't bring about honesty in
government, and it won't increase anyone's liberty. But it does
give the public a real-world civics lesson. For it shows that government
is no neutral arbiter of justice, but a corrupt scheme by which
the politically powerful enrich themselves at the expense of everyone
each political party accuses the other of corruption, here's the
rule of thumb: believe every word. The more at stake, the higher
the price people will pay for access to power. When interest groups
have to compete for access, the price is bid ever higher.
corruption and graft must characterize any system that loots some
40 percent of the national income, blows $1.7 trillion of other
people's money every year, plays central banker to the world, and
assumes godlike powers over every aspect of our lives.
a free market, big isn't the same as corrupt or inefficient. Bigness
is the reward of market success. If you give the consumers a good
product or service at a price better than the competition, your
business tends to grow. No matter how large the firm, its managers
are always accountable to the public. Moreover, no market position,
however exalted, is permanent. Private business must earn its keep
every day, or suffer losses and even bankruptcy. This is what makes
market institutions accountable; the watchdogs of the system are
investors and consumers with their own property at stake.
government, the opposite is true. Big and corrupt go hand in hand.
The worse the government is, the more it grows at public expense.
So long as the coerced revenue pours in, government can disregard
the public interest, and go about its usual business of rewarding
its friends and punishing its enemies. Rules, regs, and whistle-blowing
that attempt to keep conflicts of interest at bay work about as
well as prison bars of thread. For mankind has never discovered
a method for keeping the robber state from acting according to its
corruption is only one aspect of the general problem, but it is
a particularly interesting aspect. For now we are only hearing about
the kinds of political favoritism that skirt the law. Yet the vast
majority of corruption in Washington is perfectly legal. Indeed,
whole agencies exist only for the purpose of guaranteeing
special favors. There's a revolving door between them and the industries
they regulate, yet they are rarely hauled before Congressional committees
to give an accounting.
solution of the "good-government" types is campaign finance reform,
which is what everyone in Washington now claims to favor. But the
term "reform" masks a threatening agenda. They want to have the
taxpayers, as opposed to private parties, pay for the high costs
of running political campaigns. As bad as the present system is,
this would be worse.
least under the present system, average people can make a difference
at the margin. From time to time, a Ron Paul can come along to upset
the bipartisan balance. He can change the terms of debate and prevent
the power elite from gaining complete control over the largely rigged
effect of campaign finance reform would be to bar outsiders from
getting elected, or from contributing money to anyone who might
threaten the system. The more government money that pours into campaigns,
the more the system will be fixed on behalf of the power elite.
all, private campaign contributions-even those that directly influence
what a legislator or a president does are not good or bad
in themselves. It all depends on whether the special interest being
advanced accords with the public interest.
say an anti-tax group bankrolls a Senator into office. The group
then demands that he pay them back by passing deep tax cuts. This
is not corruption, since the result is to make people freer, and
allow them to keep more of their own money.
let's say a pro-tax group gives another Senator big bucks to raise
taxes. Then the group demands that he vote for a new tax and the
Senator complies. This is corruption, not because he is doing the
funder's bidding, but because he has increased the amount of plundering
and wealth destruction in society. And that would be evil regardless
of whether he received any campaign contributions or not.
there a double standard here? Not at all. In politics, as in markets,
money and influence are bound up with each other. When that combination
is used to the detriment of the free society, it should be condemned.
When it promotes the common good-as when it backs the cause of liberty-it
same goes for the tricky area of foreign contributions. Evidence
suggests that the Indonesian Lippo Group had a hand in the Clinton
administration's vicious decision to lock up a million acres in
Utah, preventing its clean-burning coal from being mined. The reason?
The Lippo Group has an interest in a competitive stock of this very
coal. In this criminal exchange of political favors, we see the
height of moral bankruptcy.
let's say a foreign company wants to sell cheap cars to willing
American consumers. It is prevented from doing so by high import
barriers passed on behalf of the domestic auto cartel. The politician
who takes foreign money and battles against trade quotas is doing
exactly what he should be doing. For there is no basis, economic
or moral, for any legal restrictions on what consumers can buy and
sums now finance elections. With a smaller government and a freer
people, the amount spent would fall. If that is our goal, the only
way to achieve it is by reducing the stakes in election outcomes
by gutting the power of government. Until we reach that point, the
only campaign finance reform worth pursuing is to remove all limits
on individual and corporate contributions. Preventing conflicts
of interest is as easy as abolishing all government privileges,
payments, and contracts-that is, the welfare-warfare state itself.
Legal favors that come at other people's expense should be unavailable
at any price. Liberty, which should be guaranteed as a matter of
right, should never be put up for sale.
should we do when the Congress and White House feign shock at influence
peddling, and hold endless hearings on who's the most corrupt? Rejoice
that they are distracted from their usual activities.