Recently I was asked: how do we get money out of politics? My answer, now set in a regular text post, appears below:
This isn’t complicated at all: you can’t.
Money has been central to politics since there were both politics and money. Money is an amplifier of political preference, whether through corruptly buying political leaders, linking groups together in communities of interest, lobbying, allowing the wealthy to buy advertising or other means to promote their interests, or by creating the underlying economic conditions that profoundly shape any society’s politics. You can no more get money out of politics than you can get oxygen out of air.
The real question, how can you level the playing field somewhat, such that monied persons aren’t the primary beneficiary of political largesse? We could overturn Buckley v Valeo, the Supreme Court ruling that (I think wrongly) ruled that money is speech, and so it was unconstitutional to limit private spending on campaign advocacy. (Buckley set in motion the string of reasoning that led to Citizens United.) We could change our political system to promote multiple parties, at least some of which might be progressive and/or green … unlike the dominant US parties, which are fairly wholly owned by corporate and investor interests. (The Democrats get more money from Wall Street than do Republicans, for example.) We could shorten our political campaigns, reducing the time of the campaign and thus the amount of money needed to run TV commercials.
None of this is easy. But it is far more practical and effective than the abstract and unachievable goal of getting money out of politics.
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