Our Northern European Future, continued


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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13 Responses

  1. To which I respond….we’ve been reforming campaign finance for 35 years, and the system seems to keep getting worse. Indeed, campaign finance reform itself is often subject to the worst kinds of regulatory capture (and let’s not forget that more often than not in this country campaign finance reform is synonymous with “incumbent protection plan”).

    IIRC (my memory may be bad – I’ll need to check the literature again), a critical reason why the Scandinavian countries tend to score well on corruption surveys is that they tend to do a pretty good job of delineating between business and government. It’s the sort of thing where the more government has power over business, the more power business will have over government.Report

    • Will in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      A couple of points:

      1) For campaign finance reform to be effective, I don’t think it can be incremental. Scandinavian countries don’t have limits on political contributions; they publicly fund elections through political subsidies.

      2) You say Scandinavian countries do a better job of delineating between business and government. Well, how do they do that? One possible explanation is that publicly funded campaigns leave a lot less room for business to influence the political process.

      That all said, this post was more thinking out loud than a blueprint for reform.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Will says:

        I was more referring to the notion that they are more laissez-faire with respect to things that are left to the private sector, and more willing to “occupy the field” when government decides to get involved. This means that business has very little incentive to even attempt to influence politics because politics doesn’t much affect it.

        Admittedly, this is something of a chicken-or-the-egg problem, but you see the point.

        As for public finance, I think that’s probably a political and Constitutional impossibility, especially with the SCOTUS on the verge of potentially overturning all/most of BCRA (and I can’t see myself supporting it in any event on free speech grounds).

        I could, however, put together a pretty good argument as to why and how removing most campaign finance restrictions other than disclosure laws would ultimately lead to more responsive government and reduce a lot of public choice concerns.Report

  2. Dan Miller says:

    If you want a really good look at reforming campaign finance while nevertheless retaining the First Amendment, you should check out the book Voting With Dollars by Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres. Basically, they take the idea of public financing of campaigns and parties, but rather than distribute it directly to candidates or party leadership, they give each American a voucher that they can give to a candidate or party, which can then trade it in for cash. So the disbursement gets decentralized out to the public at large. That way, candidates who are broadly popular but not backed by moneyed interests have at least some alternate source of funding. At the same time, they preserve the ability to donate from your own pocket, but require it to be anonymous; their theory is that this will lead many interests to stop actually donating and merely claim to donate (unless they actually believe in the cause, of course). But it’s an intriguing idea to block the buying of the legislature. There are a bunch of details I’m not going into, but I’d urge you to check out the book.Report

  3. Kyle says:

    The Nordic countries are also parliamentary democracies, perhaps its worth considering deeper institutional reform than campaign finance…or maybe that would lead to “constitutional capture.”Report

  4. Nob Akimoto says:

    I’m curious to what degree this is also a cultural issue too.

    Do they view money as a form of expression there, or is it considered well, money?

    I’ve always found money as speech as a bit of the more toxic element of economic liberalism in the US.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Feel like reading a defense of it?Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve never found it particularly persuasive, given that I believe money is a positive right that only exists insofar as government (or some other entity) is willing to back it up, therefore is something it has every right to regulate, particularly as to its use to influence government itself.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I am of the opinion that I should be able to, say, use my money to print a pamphlet and you (and, by extension, the government) do not have the right to prevent me from printing it and handing it out.

          Or to buy a soapbox and stand on it and talk about stuff in a common area.

          Or, by extension, to buy a commercial or newspaper ad or commission a painting.

          Does this mean that rich people will have more influence than poor people? Yeah, probably. I find that less odious than the idea of the government acting as censor of what I (and by extension, you) can read, or listen to, or whatnot.

          It’s not that I’m a fan of “money is speech” but that I am a foe of “you can’t print that”.Report

  5. Bruce Smith says:

    The only problem with a “Give Money Free Reign” approach is that it acts as both a filter and facilitator and the media gets dominated by right wing ideas because the rich own the media. The exception is the Internet but the plurality of channels dilutes dissemination of ideas. It is important in a society with complex systems, artifacts and problems that a diverse creation of ideas and wide spread broadcasting by mainstream channels is encouraged. How else are you going to rapidly change ideas and norms with such complexity going on? Given that most individuals now accept the importance of markets it is only the greedy and ignorant rich who stand in the way of freeing up the exchange of ideas in the more traditional media of newspapers and TV. My argument has a parallel in the average life expectancy of an American business being only forty years because of foolish top-down management who cannot understand that to evolve and adapt to an ever changing market you need to incentivize and encourage everybody in the workforce to contribute their ideas and solutions.Report