Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The primary populist concern with “money in politics” is conspiratorial: “they” will grab total control because “they” buy the politicians.

The cries on the political left that The Evil Koch Brothers™ spend money, thereby “corrupting OUR democracy,” have become ubiquitous.

The fact that the left has its own billionaires, and that they give far more money to their causes than the Kochs do to theirs? Conveniently left out of the hysteria.

But the real case against money in politics has almost nothing to do with buying politicians.

Which leads us to the biggest problem with money in politics: most of it is a waste.

Binyamin Appelbaum, writing Tuesday in The New York Times, reports on the conclusion of a number of economists that “buying elections is economically inefficient.” Appelbaum quotes a major donor who posits why that’s the case: “politicians don’t stay bought.”

Yes indeed, politicians are a tricky investment.

Still, giving patterns suggest contributions are more often intended to advance one’s beliefs and values, than to purchase or rent the allegiance of (or protection from) an elected official.

When we switch from spending money on politicians to spending money on causes, especially initiative and referendum campaigns, the situation looks a bit different. You don’t buy anyone. You persuade voters. Or not.

I’ve seen many a well-funded initiative fall because citizens just wouldn’t have it. Businesses and lobbyists and unions all hate term limits, and have often outspent supporters. But, barring deception, term limits usually win with voters.

Who can’t be bought even for a while.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Drik says:

    Got to see “shovel ready jobs” during the stimulus spending rush. One county in North Georgia had fingers in the slush and couldn’t figure what to do. They ended up paying one stretch of road (that didn’t even need paving) three times. Six inches of new asphalt burning up tax dollars that could have been left to work in the hands of the people who earned it. I don’t know anyone who earns money who just hides it in a mattress. Everyone is trying to make it work and grow, hiring people and buying products.
    That county that burned through the money? Running along that stretch of road, you see business after business closed, shuttered, and vacated. I’ve been driving through there for nearly 30 years. These were businesses that were there 30 years ago. They are just gone. Asphalt didn’t help them nor will it bring them back. Government spending doesn’t create jobs. It takes money away from the most productive use in America and funnels it to the least productive use.

    Competition drives productivity. Term limits are a necessary control since the politicians have it set up that it is so hard for anyone to compete with them for their position.

  2. Rick says:

    You’re last or last two sentences are confusing. Did you mean “…usually win with voters, who can’t be bought even for a while.” or “Who can’t be bought even for a while?”

    Nevertheless, it’s a big machine. I think there is all sorts of buying going on. Direct purchase of votes, political tradoffs, regulatory capture, direct selling of soul, etc, etc, etc……….

  3. Pat says:

    Simple math would suggest that those billions spent by corporations or Kochs aren’t enough to sway an election. If Americans are opposed to big money in politics then vote for candidates who don’t spend it. If Americans want term limits then tell them to stop voting for incumbents. Go for the libertarian, if you really want change. I doubt most Americans really want change. They just want their own guy (party) calling the shots.

  4. MoreFreedom says:

    “But the real case against money in politics has almost nothing to do with buying politicians”

    It has everything to do with politicians who’ll sell out taxpayers and citizens, for campaign cash or other favors. Rent-seekers cannot buy what is not offered for sale. Thus politicians like Obama, let the 1% rich know they are happy to sell us out (see Solyndra, which is but one of thousands of examples).

    Which is exactly why politicians want to “regulate” commerce. Contrary to Willie Sutton’s belief that money is in the banks, the big money is in commerce which includes the banks. Too bad we don’t have a free market economy, where you are free to buy/sell without the government getting involved.

  5. Mike says:

    There is a big difference between buying or renting a politician through political contributions and Return on Investment for lobbying.

    Voters are not easy to buy, though probably somewhat with various programs. Ten ads probably don’t work any better than one that the voter sees.

    On the other hand, lobbying shows a very good ROI, probably as a result of concepts shown in The Public Choice Theory.

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