Sometimes it takes money to do things. Say, to collect signatures for a petition. If you want folks to be hitting the sidewalks all day inviting support for a ballot question, you might want to pay them so they can pay the rent while theyâ€™re doing this.
Critics of citizen initiative rights often complain about paying people to gather signatures â€” especially if theyâ€™re paid per signature. They even try to outlaw it. If workers are paid per signature, arenâ€™t they motivated to commit fraud? Concoct fake signatures?
Letâ€™s think this through. If the possibility of fraud justifies outlawing a paid activity, how many paid activities could then be outlawed? Well, all of them.
Outlawing fraud and outlawing a freedom that might be abused are two different things. All freedom can be abused. Suppose an envelope-stufferâ€™s revenue depends on envelopes stuffed per hour. Does he have an â€œincentiveâ€ to work too fast, never bothering to lick the envelopes?
No. It only makes sense to tie pay to productivity. And that doesnâ€™t give you an automatic incentive to do slipshod work.
There are bad guys. But we donâ€™t criminalize all conduct, even the good, because of the possibility of bad. Instead, we make laws against bad conduct.
Thatâ€™s why the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals just struck down an Ohio law that banned paying people based on the number of signatures they collect. The law was declared unconstitutional because it restricts good people from effectively using their First Amendment rights.
This is Common Sense. Iâ€™m Paul Jacob.