A Philosopher's Blog

Proposal: SuperPAC

Posted in Business, Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on November 3, 2011
Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

A stock “criticism” of the Occupiers is that they lack solutions. While I make no pretense of speaking for the 99% (or even the 53%) I thought I’d try my hand at making a reform suggestion.

Interestingly, some of the best and most honest analysis of our political and economic systems is done by comedians. For example, Stephen Colbert’s development of his PAC and Super PAC made it clear how that sort of stuff works while, at the same time, presenting a criticism of said system (although Colbert has been accused of having an agenda of his own).

While people should clearly be allowed to organize so as to raise money for political causes, the Super PAC seems to have two fundamental problems in that it allows unlimited donations and also anonymous donations. This allows those with the financial resources to secretly fund whatever cause or candidate they desire.

As might be imagined, this gives those with significant resources considerable influence on the political system-both in terms of shaping what appears in the media as well as potentially gaining influence over candidates. To counter this, I would suggest that limits need to be placed on these contributions so as to make the political playing field somewhat more level and to reduce the influence of big money over politicians.

It might be contended that this is a limit on free speech since spending money has been equated with speech. On the face of it, while spending money can be an enabler of expression (buying TV time, for example) it does not seem to actually fall under what would count as an act of expression in a meaningful sense. Also, given its corrupting influence on politics it could be argued that even if it is free speech, it is harmful and hence can be limited (just as free speech does not allow one to yell “fire” in a crowded theater or to buy a politician directly with bribes). As such, placing limits on such donations seems to be reasonable and just.

In regards to the anonymous part, that is also a problem since it prevents accountability and also prevents people from determining who is, in fact, funding the SuperPACS. It seems safe to assume that companies and people prefer to be anonymous because they believe that it would not be in their best interest to have people know what they were funding. However, given that the political process in a democracy should be open, there seems to be no compelling reason to allow such anonymity. If an appeal to free speech is made, this can easily be countered: a right to free speech does not entail that people have a guaranteed right to anonymous speech.

It might be objected that people who face danger from speaking can legitimately claim a right to anonymous speech as their only means of free expression. However, while those donating money might suffer some harm if people knew about their donations, this would not be a case in which they need to hide in order to avoid wrongful harm. To use an analogy, a person who likes to insult people on the web might be harmed if people knew who s/he was, but being a jerk does not entitle a person to anonymity. Likewise, giving to SuperPACS that might harm a company’s reputation if it were known is not a legitimate justification for anonymity.

Given that there are no compelling reasons (other than as vehicles of corruption) for SuperPACs and they seem rather harmful to the democratic process I propose that they be eliminated. Failing that, I want one.

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One Response

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on November 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

    You might want to look into “bundling” too. Are you beginning to realize the entire election system is corrupt? and that voting is a waste of time and energy?

    On bundling, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_finance_in_the_United_States#Bundling

    You should watch this very important video, wherein the late UC scholar Chalmers Johnson explains the fix we’re in. Maybe then you will realize the drastic changes that are coming, that it’s not time for business as usual, and that you are way behind the curve on the current political situation in America:

    ‘Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback, Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic , talks about the similarities in the decline of the Roman and Soviet empires and the signs that the U.S. empire is exhibiting the same symptoms: overextension, corruption and the inability to reform.

    Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, a non-profit research and public affairs organization devoted to public education concerning Japan and international relations in the Pacific”
    See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q2CCs-x9q9U


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