“Freedom is winning the battle over money in politics: Should anyone celebrate?”

Brad Smith responds to Paul Waldman:

An ongoing problem with “reform” advocacy over the decades has been the lack of interest in results. The advocates of all this regulation tend to measure “good government” by the presence of regulation, rather than by improving living standards, greater freedom, school performance, respect for civil liberties, or other substantive criteria. Thus they hold out as an indicia of the “success” of government financed elections that most candidates take the free money rather than work under the regulatory handicaps that exist if they do not; they cite lower spending as being itself evidence of better government, even as states with lower spending lag economically; they ignore the fact that passage of campaign finance regulation never seems to actually boost public confidence in government, and in fact more often corresponds with a decline in confidence in government; they eagerly hope for a new government ethics scandal they can lay at the feet of campaign finance freedom, while ignoring the scandals that take place during their highly regulated moments (Cunningham, Abramoff, Ney, Jefferson, runaway earmarking, etc.).

Political campaigns are not always pretty, and they are not always models of civic discourse as presented by the utopians. But on balance, campaign finance freedom works, and works well. It’s far better than leaving the regulation of political discourse to incumbent congressmen and the party in power, to be guided, presumably, by the prejudices of the Paul Waldmans of the world. That’s why we have a First Amendment.

Should we celebrate our freedom to speak freely about candidates, parties, issues, and Paul Waldman?

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