The Liberty School

Blaming money where money isn’t to blame

As the election draws nearer and the Democrats fall farther and farther behind in the polls, they’re trying a last-ditch effort to convince voters that the GOP is being funded by rich, evil, multi-national corporations. They’re trying to harness the anger over the Citizens United ruling that overturned limits on corporate spending in elections. As the New York Times puts it:

We can’t turn on the television these days without being assaulted by ads anonymously savaging candidates. Welcome to politics in post-Citizens United America. The Supreme Court allowed unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions but didn’t require the folks picking up the tab to stand behind their words.

It is too late for this campaign. The House approved a measure requiring phantom check writers to identify themselves on their ads and barring money from overseas corporations. Senate Republicans blocked it. Voters who say they’re fed up with negative politics — and sleazy back-room deals — need to demand better.

I couldn’t agree more that voters should demand better – from themselves.

On November 2nd I will be voting for a candidate who has no chance of winning at this point and is last amongst the three candidates in terms of funds. He has no commercials on television and I have yet to even see one yard sign in my area of the district. Yet I know who he is. I know what he stands for. I have heard him speak, as I have heard all of the balloted candidates speak. I know these things because I take my vote seriously. I am a rare breed – an educated voter.

The myth that money buys votes is precariously pervasive amongst the electorate and is entirely counterintuitive. To affirm such a belief, one must admit that they sell their vote to the highest bidder. Surely you will have a difficult task finding a person who would confess to such bribery, yet those who blame wealthy corporations and candidates for buying an election are ubiquitous. Thus is the myth dispelled.

The truth is that money is often a scapegoat for the loser. Instead of accepting the much more likely culprits – that voters are angry with their performance or oppose their agenda – they purport that filthy rich corporations and/or unions are stealing the election. The fail, however, to make the logical connection between said money and the electorate’s supposed inability to choose for themselves. Does money influence elections? Certainly, but only because people are irresponsible with their vote. In this case it’s far more reasonable to blame the people instead of the entities pouring cash into TV ads and mailers. This phenomenon lends great credence to the belief, professed by the likes of John Stossel, Bryan Caplan, and myself, that, while it is everyone’s right to vote, it is most often best if they do not.

The money myth draws its lifeblood from fears that politicians, once in office, will be beholden to their campaign’s funders. Therefore, as the fable goes, people must know precisely who those funders are. I have a better suggestion: If you have a reasonable suspicion that a candidate is likely to be faithful to anyone or anything other than the Constitution of the United States, don’t vote for them.

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