Do we really have the right to free speech? Our campaign finance laws, and the “burdens” they impose on First Amendment rights of free speech and free association are often justified by the courts because of what the courts call “the compelling state interest” in combating “corruption and the appearance of corruption.” That’s more compelling than freedom or even “the appearance” of freedom, apparently. S
et aside, for the moment, the notion that government may trash our most fundamental political rights if they think they have a “compelling” reason. Let’s consider another awfully strange legal principle, namely, that we can enact laws designed to outlaw the “appearance” of something or other.
What’s next? Laws outlawing the appearance of fraud, robbery, assault, murder? You’re not supposed to go to jail unless you really committed the crime. Of course, if we actually went by appearances, we’d have to lock up most of official Washington. Even the career politicians tell us the system is corrupt, that something must be done. But corruption isn’t so mysterious. It involves politicians shaking down economic interests or doing their bidding to get campaign contributions that will ensure their political careers. Yet congressmen who violate House rules or campaign finance laws are often given a slap on the wrist. They refuse to effectively regulate themselves, but want to regulate the rest of us.
Voters want politicians to change their actual behavior, not their apparent behavior. And we don’t need to pass a law for that one . . . well, maybe term limits.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.