Unintended Consequences

Tom Edsall argues in The American Prospect [*] that campaign finance reform usually just reinforces the dominance of whichever groups are dominant at the moment. I hope he’s wrong, but he’s usually right about this sort of thing.

Campaign finance reform resembles gun control: I have no doubt that the country would be better off with fewer guns and with a politics less dominated by money. The big problem, as I see it, isn’t so much the raw dollar advantage Republicans have once the campaign starts, but the disgusting special-interest pandering the Democrats have to do to raise the money they do raise. (We can’t easily make the corporate accounting scandals an issue against the Republicans because Democrats voted for the provision that forbade the SEC from requiring that auditing and consulting be split, for example.)

But noting that people with bullet holes in them and corrupt politics are problems is much easier than figuring out actual policies to control guns or political money that will make things better rather than worse.

With any luck, internet fund-raising will make it sufficiently easy to raise big money in small chunks to somewhat reduce the capacity of well-organized interests to buy the political process. That may be the best we can hope for.

Speaking of which, my Clark pledge campaign is now up to 19 commitments, of which 7 are commitments to find ten more people and three volunteered the information they’re contributing $100 rather than $10. One of the 7 posted a link [*] on his Strange Doctrines weblog. Not too shabby for a few minutes’ work; it suggests both that Clark has some appeal and that the web makes a difference.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com