The attached TED talk was recently sent to me, and I think it warranted sharing – with some comments of course.
Lawrence does a good job of outlining the problem. Money in politics is akin to a cancer – candidates are in an arms race reaching ever deeper into the pockets of the very few to bankroll their candidacies. This of course gives undue political power to those interests, which increasingly control the electoral landscape. Some of the statistics are absolutely staggering. 132 people…
I think he is right, especially in the perspective that everyone knows that this is a problem. He is certainly not the first one to point out the symbiotic relationship between Capitol Hill and K Street, to the determent of the taxpayer as well as to pragmatic and effective policy. There are so many instances where the way that our electoral process is structured leads to sub-optimal outcomes – i.e. corn subsidies are unlikely to end anytime soon due to Iowa’s place at the top of the hierarchy of primary elections. Money in politics is one of the most unsightly issues that is so obviously one of the “first issues” that prevent real reform – in either direction, left or right.
However, I think his overview of potential solutions is terribly lacking in specifics and much oversimplified. Campaign finance reform has always been the the political “boondoggle” for many of the reasons mentioned in the TED talk, above all that the number one exit opportunity for a legislator is to join one of the big lobbying firms. However, it is a web of legislation, law, ethics, freedom, and public opinion – all of which need to be navigated to make any progress.
Dollars are one currency that we have typically regarded as political speech. Unless we reclassify speech as not including money, how can we limit it? If we limit dollars now, what does that mean for potential alternative “political currencies” down the road? Will someone with twitter follower numbers over a certain amount be subject to campaign law restrictions because of undue influence on the electoral process? The legal questions are much more complex than he seems to let on.
While it is not an easy problem to solve, it should definitely be a priority. I’m going to put some more thought into this one.