Money in Politics - Caleb Jones

The issue of money in politics is one that has gained a lot of traction in the last several years. It’s one of the few issues whereupon most left-wingers and right-wingers agree.

The position essentially states that we must pass a myriad of laws and/or constitutional amendments to prevent rich people and big corporations from influencing elections and lawmaking. This includes, among many other things, repealing Citizen’s United, a famous 2010 supreme court case in which the court ruled that in terms of donating money to politicians, corporations are equivalent to people, allowing the floodgates to open for corporations to influence politicians.

“Getting money out of politics,” at least theoretically, will ensure that politicians are more likely to serve the will of the people and not the will of corporatists.

Like most political issues, the intent behind this position is a good one. It’s anti-corporatist, which is great.

The problem is that this position is held by people who are fundamentally for big government, even if they don’t think they are. I shall explain.

If you don’t want the government to do bad things, you have two options.

Option one is to give the government massive power, then pass a bunch of laws, amendments, and regulations to try to keep that same government from abusing said power.

Option two is to never give the government massive power in the first place. Then you don’t need to pass any of this stuff.

Left-wingers and right-wingers usually are for option one. They each believe (in their own way) that government should be given extreme and wide-reaching power over your personal life, the economy, the world, and many other aspects. When they do this, they’re always shocked, shocked! to find that many politicians in charge of this huge government do very bad things.

Well, duh.

Left-wingers and right-wingers then say, “Well, we will want massive government in control of certain things, but we want that massive government to only do what we want.” The term “good government” is the favorite phrase of these people. “I don’t want big government, I want good government!”

Then they go into band-aid mode, and start passing even more laws, regulations, and other bullshit, most of which actually makes your life even more difficult and all of which actually costs more taxpayer dollars to police the politicians and their donors to make sure they don’t do bad things.

They pass all kinds of laws and regulations, spend bazillions of dollars, and big surprise, politicians keep doing bad things with the massive power the left and the right have given them. These “get money out of politics” restrictions always seem to plug up one hole only to create another.

The small government answer is very different, much simpler, much less expensive, and far more effective (though nothing government is 100% effective; as always, we’re talking about least bad here). It’s simply to never give government this massive power in the first place. Now the politicians can’t do bad things (or not nearly as bad things) because they don’t have the power to do them in the first place.

As has been said before, it’s not abuse of power that’s the problem; it’s the power to abuse. If you never give an entity power over your life, that entity can’t use that power against you. That’s what my relationship advice to men is all about; be with women all you want; just never give them the power to destroy your life. Problem solved, very simple.

With government, it works the same way. Have a government if you want, but don’t give it very much power. Now you don’t need to worry about “money in politics” because “politics” won’t have the power to abuse you or rip you off (or it will, but not nearly as much and/or not nearly as much people).

This is why, strangely, anyone who strongly holds a “get money out of politics” position actually supports big government. If you truly wanted small government like I do, you support a government that doesn’t have the kind of power over you to abuse in the first place.

I want money out of politics too. I just want it out of politics before the problem occurs, not after the problem occurs.

12 Comments on “Money in Politics

  1. “Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”  Thomas Jefferson

  2. Either large wealthy interests will influence a big government to get their way, or large wealthy interests will fill the power vacuum left by a small government and get their way directly without needing to influence the government (privately controlled services and industries that are lightly, or un-regulated). Either way you’re screwed if you don’t align yourself with those more powerful than you, but I would almost prefer some government control that is supposed to be answerable to it’s citizens vs. private control that answers to no one and evades accountability.

    It is naive to think small government solves problems like this (or many problems really). Or big government. The best solution IMO is to keep private organizations and individuals from having power (monetary or otherwise) that is significant compared to that of the government, AND keeping government accountable to its citizenry. We have neither of course, and probably will not any time soon. The corporatist oligarchy is too well entrenched.

  3. Either large wealthy interests will influence a big government to get their way, or large wealthy interests will fill the power vacuum left by a small government and get their way directly without needing to influence the government (privately controlled services and industries that are lightly, or un-regulated).

    The difference is that the private interests can’t force you at gunpoint to obey them.

    Either way you’re screwed if you don’t align yourself with those more powerful than you, but I would almost prefer some government control that is supposed to be answerable to it’s citizens vs. private control that answers to no one and evades accountability.

    Again, the government that supposedly answers to the people can and will force you at gunpoint to do or not do certain things in your life, but the private interests can’t.

    It is naive to think small government solves problems like this (or many problems really).

    Correct. It won’t. As always, we’re talking about least bad here, not good vs. bad. Small government is indeed the least bad way to do this (though still bad).

    The best solution IMO is to keep private organizations and individuals from having power (monetary or otherwise) that is significant compared to that of the government, AND keeping government accountable to its citizenry.

    Except that we’ve literally never seen a government remain accountable to its citizenry, so that’s pie in the sky thinking.

  4. Caleb,

    Check out the book “This Town” by Mark Leibovich.  It’s a great look into the Washington cesspool.  I believe one of the opening lines is “there are no republicans or democrats in DC, only millionaires”.  Just follow the money in this world and things make sense.

  5. “Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”  Thomas Jefferson

    “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    -Lord Acton

    😉

  6.  the government that supposedly answers to the people can and will force you at gunpoint to do or not do certain things in your life, but the private interests can’t.

    Nonsense.

    -Drug companies monopolize markets and force people to pay 100X (or more) the price of what the life-saving drug would be were there actual free market competition.

    -Credit card companies get away with ridiculous fees and complete non-responsibility and legal accountability with their arbitration agreements

    -Monsanto. Don’t really have to say more than that.

    Those are all ‘guns to the head’ more impactful that tax penalties for not buying health insurance, or driving without a license.

    The companies all do this because their power is significant compared to the governments that are supposed to regulate them, so they can easily corrupt the regulatory processes and get their way. Small government won’t fix this, appropriate regulation of private enterprise combined with limits on the scope of power private enterprise can have  (relative to the government) will.

    Way back when a corporation in the US had to get approval from local government to be formed, had to have some sort of purpose that fulfilled a public need, and could have it’s charter pulled by will of the people if they didn’t like what it was doing. We could do well to go back in that direction.

     

  7. Drug companies monopolize markets

    …via government regulation such as the FDA and a myriad of other regulations suppressing competition. In a truly free market, which we do not have, no one would be able to monopolize anything. Big drug companies are an example of government not working, not the free market not working.

    Credit card companies get away with ridiculous fees and complete non-responsibility and legal accountability with their arbitration agreements

    That isn’t forcing anyone at gunpoint to do anything. People who get these credit cards do so of their own free will. I don’t own credit cards because I don’t like paying high interest and fees. See? Simple. No one is forcing me.

    Monsanto

    Another government-backed corporatist entity whom the government protects by suppressing competitors and who gets millions of dollars from big government in the form of subsidies. Again, this is an example of government not working, not the free market not working.

    Those are all ‘guns to the head’

    None of them is. No one is forcing you to eat Monsanto’s food, even with their government-backed near-monopoly status.

    appropriate regulation of private enterprise combined with limits on the scope of power private enterprise can have  (relative to the government) will.

    Government involvement is the cause of every problem you just stated. And you want more government? Not smart.

    Way back when a corporation in the US had to get approval from local government to be formed, had to have some sort of purpose that fulfilled a public need, and could have it’s charter pulled by will of the people if they didn’t like what it was doing. We could do well to go back in that direction.

    That’s oppression,  not freedom. You should be able to start a business for any reason you like. And once you start that business, government should not regulate it in any way unless you are defrauding your customers, nor should government give you any money for any reason.

    Under that system, you will never see a monopoly. Assholes and criminals will quickly go out of business. Competitors, new and old, would constantly be keeping other companies in check. Monopolies are only possible with the help of big government.

  8. Under that system, you will never see a monopoly. Assholes and criminals will quickly go out of business. Competitors, new and old, would constantly be keeping other companies in check. Monopolies are only possible with the help of big government.

    Again, nonsense. Monopolization is a natural stable state for many unregulated markets, just as monarchic tyranny is a natural political endpoint for an unstructured society. Once one company gets an advantage over others it can exploit greater resources to force others out of the market, monopolizing it even if their product or service may be inferior to the competition. This has happened repeatedly through history and many societies including ours and continues to happen. Appropriate government regulation levels the playing field and preserves competition. Lack of it allows the unchecked growth of corporations to levels so powerful that they can wipe out the competition (flood a market with below cost goods, e.g.) and then control the government which is supposed to keep them from breaking laws.

    Of course ‘appropriate’ is tough to get right and the more private interest influence there is over government policy the more unfair and monopolized things get. Which leads us back to keeping the power of corporations small compared to the governments which regulate them or you get a corporatist oligarchy.

    Monsanto has successfully put farmers out of business by suing them for having crops on their property which were seeded by the wind blowing Monsanto GMO seed onto their property. What free market option did these farmers have? Absolutely a gun to the head. It wasn’t ‘big government’ that lead to that result, it was a government essentially being submissive to a large corporation.

    And yes, private companies which manage to monopolize markets remove choice from the customer so many do have a gun to their head. Only the wealthier more independent folks such as ourselves have the choices you talk about.

  9. Monopolization is a natural stable state for many unregulated markets, just as monarchic tyranny is a natural political endpoint for an unstructured society. Once one company gets an advantage over others it can exploit greater resources to force others out of the market, monopolizing it even if their product or service may be inferior to the competition. This has happened repeatedly through history and many societies including ours and continues to happen.

    Great. Please give me several of these many historical examples of completely free market monopolies that became oppressive monopolies without without any help from big government.

    Monsanto has successfully put farmers out of business by suing them for having crops on their property which were seeded by the wind blowing Monsanto GMO seed onto their property. What free market option did these farmers have?

    You didn’t read what I read about Monsanto in my last comment. I’ll copy-and-paste repeat it for you:

    <Monsanto is> another government-backed corporatist entity whom the government protects by suppressing competitors and who gets millions of dollars from big government in the form of subsidies. Again, this is an example of government not working, not the free market not working.

  10. You didn’t read what I read about Monsanto in my last comment. I’ll copy-and-paste repeat it for you:
    <Monsanto is> another government-backed corporatist entity whom the government protects by suppressing competitors and who gets millions of dollars from big government in the form of subsidies. Again, this is an example of government not working, not the free market not working.

    Yeah, I read it. Perhaps you didn’t read this?

    The companies all do this because their power is significant compared to the governments that are supposed to regulate them, so they can easily corrupt the regulatory processes and get their way.

    and this?

    Appropriate government regulation levels the playing field and preserves competition. Lack of it allows the unchecked growth of corporations to levels so powerful that they can wipe out the competition (flood a market with below cost goods, e.g.) and then control the government which is supposed to keep them from breaking laws.

    Please give me several of these many historical examples of completely free market monopolies that became oppressive monopolies without without any help from big government.

    Now we need a definition of ‘big government’. Also, per my arguments above, how do we separate government from business in terms of cause and effect when they are inextricably intertwined? Economic activity is necessary to fund a government, the stability of a governed society is necessary for business to flourish. No large business, monopoly or otherwise, can happen without government. So what is ‘big’?
    And while we’re at it, what libertarian-style small government societies would you hold up as examples of what you advocate?

  11. 1. Describe to me exactly how private corporations force government at gunpoint to oppress the populace. Please be very specific in your explanation.

    2. Forget about “big” government and give me some examples of private corporations becoming oppressive monopolies without the cooperation of government (big or small). If there are so many throughout history as you say, it should be very easy to do and very easy to prove me wrong on this without making a bunch of excuses about how you can’t answer the question.

    how do we separate government from business in terms of cause and effect when they are inextricably intertwined?

    Because private companies can’t force citizens or government to do things and government can. If corporations can’t force government to do anything and can’t force citizens to do anything, and government can, there’s your cause and effect. Government forces people to do things, corporations don’t, unless those corporations use the power of government using legal bribery and other nonviolent means of influence.

    These corporatist corporations wouldn’t be able to do that if government had limited power in the first place, thus my point in the article.

    what libertarian-style small government societies would you hold up as examples of what you advocate?

    There has never been a libertarian-style government because such a thing is impossible. What is possible is to get as close to that as you can within real world limitations. Two examples are the United States, which via comparatively small government went from a few farmers to a world power in less than 130 years, something that has never been done before in all of human history. Example two is Hong Kong, which via comparatively small government went from a small barren rock with no natural resources and a few fishermen to the number one economy in the entire planet in less than 40 years. Small government works.

    I answered your question, now you need to answer my two questions above. Or would you like to admit you were a little full of shit when you said that?

  12. 1. It’s called corruption. Don’t play dumb. This is prevalent throughout our government and leads to corporate lobbyists getting to write the regulations and control the agencies that are supposed to govern their industry, to their advantage and at the expense of the populace which is counting on the agencies to keep private industry from endangering them. This is happening all the time at the FDA, DEA, HHS, EPA, etc. Technically you could say that our government representatives are ‘free’ to refuse this influence but if they do they just get replaced (with funding and effort from industry) by those that will be influenced.

    2. We could go through a lot of examples and never agree what is or is not ‘cooperation from government’, since all prosperous companies in the history of the world have needed a regulated government to give them the necessary environment for growth so I won’t go into it but the history of pre-crash industrial revolution provides some examples.

    Better yet, how about NO government? What happens then? The extreme is unrealistic but I think it serves to illustrate the point about the natural tendencies of the market system.

    How do black markets work for drugs, for example? Are you free to pick from numerous different suppliers or does the industry tend to monopolize after bloody gang wars for territory and market share? The history of the various large cartels seems to indicate the latter. They often kill some of their customers, too.

    How about Somalia? Not much government there. I have not experienced this personally but from accounts I have read it seems everything including commerce is controlled by warlords of various sorts and competition gets killed off, literally.

    I don’t see how you come to the conclusion that without an appropriate regulating government, with appropriate power proportional to the companies that it must govern, that free enterprise will flourish in some libertarian utopia of free markets creating a better world and free choice for all. Evidence points to competition having a stable endpoint at monopoly/monarchy without an intervening government to set regulations and controls on the players involved. That government must have a power proportional to that which it governs otherwise it will be ineffective. Otherwise the ‘natural selection’ in this sort of situation will favor ever increasing competition until one organization vanquishes all rivals. Once monopoly is achieved and customers have little choice there isn’t much to stop the corporation from doing what it wants, within the market as well as with any weak government that presides, provided it still can get people to buy.

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