cure: Campaign finance reform
By George F. Smith
posted February 18, 2002
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me constantly, you must be Big Brother."
-- rule of subjection
Campaign finance reform is Congress's latest expression of love for America.
Politicians and their envy-eaten allies who favor reform are selling it
as a victory for the common man over corrupt monied interests like Enron.
As they see it, giant corporations, eager to put pals in office, funnel
soft money to their favorite political parties where it often ends up
hard at work supporting their candidates, thereby giving them government
privileges the rest of us are denied.
On the other side, pro-liberty pundits are screaming about the unconstitutionality
of the bill now going into the Senate. They could pick almost any bill
at random and holler just as loud. There's nothing in the Constitution,
they say, authorizing Congress to control political campaigns -- a view
with which proponents of reform completely agree. With one catch.
Daniel Ortiz of the Brookings Institute spells out that catch: "One would
search the Constitution in vain," he wrote in 1997, "for any mention of
'campaign finance,' let alone 'contributions,' 'expenditures,' 'soft money,'
or any of the other specialized terms in the campaign finance vocabulary.
Yet despite this silence, the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly and
repeatedly held that the Constitution greatly limits what Congress and
the states can do." (emphasis added) 
By virtue of that silence, the Constitution does limit what Congress
can do. But to people like Ortiz, this interpretation is inhumane because
it prohibits legal compulsion, except as punishment for a crime. They
don't want to leave people alone, they want to dictate how they should
live. One of the major victories of the New Deal was the unofficial repeal
of the Tenth
Amendment, which opened the gates for Congress to bleed and control
business. The resultant havoc raised cries for more regulations, sending
us spiraling towards statism. But to demagogues, interventionism is the
great savior of American capitalism. It's the best thing theyıve got as
a cure for liberty.
Besides being flagrant violations of our rights, restrictions on campaign
spending happen to favor incumbents, a coincidence that apparently tip-toed
past our public-spirited legislators. "Money is of much greater value
to challengers than to incumbents," Cato Institute's Bradley Smith writes,
"so higher spending opens up the political system to new people and ideas."
But incumbents could object. They could point out that the American people
perceived that our government had a scant $2,000,000,000,000 budget with
which to prevent 9-11 and so wisely demanded drastic increases in funding
and power. The idea of ignoring the Constitution to guarantee our safety
is unfortunate, pols will admit, but at least now when we board a plane
we'll land at an airport instead of a conference room -- by virtue of
converting minimum-wagers to federal employees and shaking down soccer
moms and their progeny. If campaign finance reform will keep out of office
radicals who are blinded by allegiance to the Constitution, then this
legislation is truly a case of God blessing America.
If we peek behind the rhetoric of politicians calling for more control
over our lives, we'll find an infallible fidelity to force. Acts of God
notwithstanding, social problems emerge from the human act of choosing.
The government's role, they believe, is to put a stop to those choices
-- by passing laws. Their purpose is to convert us from beings who choose
to robots who obey. This is what kept legislators up until 3:00 a.m. on
Valentine's Day morning, ensuring we don't corrupt any more elections
as we did when we chose them for office.
Government regulation has always been a con game. It creates havoc and
injustice, not order and fairness. Nonetheless, it's sold to the public
as a way of instilling civility in an otherwise dog-eat-dog economic system.
That's Big Brother's two-for-one sale -- two myths in one breath. Government
schools perpetuate these myths with great success.
Leftist commentators in the media and higher education point to Enron
as a textbook example of the evils of unregulated capitalism. But Enron
was buried in regulations, as are all business entities. If anything,
the regulations helped provide a false sense of security for those who
didn't know better. As for the fraud Enron committed, that's been on the
books for ages as a criminal act, independent of politicians' meddling
As economist William L. Anderson explains, the Enron "collapse did not
come because regulators blew the whistle on the company's fraudulent operations,
but rather because potential investors came to realize the company's shell
games could no longer be hidden. The judgment of investors . . . was swift
and sudden: America's corporate darling was relegated to the abyss of
penny stocks." 
While government has the power to run our lives, there will always be
favor-seekers and mounting abuse. We need to take away that power. We
need to restore the Tenth Amendment and return our lives to their rightful
-- Campaign Finance Reform: A sourcebook, Ch. 3 "The First Amendment at
Work: Constitutional Restrictions on Campaign Finance Law," Daniel R.
-- Policy Analysis, Campaign Finance Regulation: Faulty Assumptions and
Undemocratic Consequences, Bradley A. Smith.
-- Regulation and Reality, William L. Anderson.
George Smith is full-time freelance writer with a special interest
in liberty issues and screenwriting. His articles have appeared on Ether
Zone, and in the Gwinnett Daily Post, Writer's Yearbook, Creative Loafing,
and Goal Magazine. He has a web site for screenwriters and other writers
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