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This question is inspired by the discussion about lobbyism and free speech.

There are two fundamental ideas in modern democracies that seem to contradict each other, while both being so fundamental that none could be severely restricted without burying the concept of a capitalistic democracy.

The first one is "one man, one vote". Each citizen in a democracy should have the same influence on electing the government. Giving some people more than one vote (for example, on the base of taxes paid or educational level) is considered undemocratic.

The second one is the freedom to accumulate wealth. While of course progressive tax rates exist, there is no upper limit as to how much money a single person may possess. It is considered a basic freedom to make as much money as one is able too (while, of course, adhering to the law).

In principle, I am okay with both. But now there is a severe conflict between the two, given by lobbyism and the influence of money on the outcome of elections. (Note that while inspired by current events, this is not a Donald Trump thing, the phenomenon can be seen far beyond this case and the political stance of the respective candidates is irrelevant to the question.)

If I have so much money that I can put pressure on the candidates running for election - by funding TV ads or political campaigns or by threatening not to do so - I exercise a power far beyond my own voting power. I am also not just representing a number of voters with the same goals. So, effectively my vote is worth much more than the vote of others, because giving my vote (and money) to another candidate is a much more powerful threat than some ordinary guy giving the vote to someone else.

So through the backdoor, I have introduced a sort of census suffrage. Now what are the options?

  1. Accepting the situation as is. But in this case, I have a system where the rich effectively have much more voting power than the rest. Assuming (as a rough estimation) that wealth is proportional to voting power, this can lead to a situation where 1% of the population have 40% of the voting power. And this seems more like an aristocracy than a democracy.

  2. Severely restricting the accumulation of wealth. The communist solution, and not very effective in the past. Moreover, this has not prevented (and maybe even supported) the emergence of small powerful undemocratic groups.

  3. Putting restrictions to the usage of wealth in political situations. This solution is used in many western states, but is of course a violation of free speech and the possibility to exercise political influence at will.

Are there any more options? None of them seem very appealing and none of them will support a truly free and democratic system. How can personal freedom to acquire wealth and having the same voting power for everyone coexist without one undermining the other?

Edit for clarification: Voting power is not only about what I actually vote at the ballot box. When I go to my congressman and demand a certain behavior or else I will not vote for him the next time, I am also exerting voting power. The question mainly is about the strong correlation between wealth and this type of voting power.

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    This question looks almost like a duplicate of "Why is paid lobbying considered a form of 'free speech'?". Does that answer your question? If not, could you try to differentiate this question more from the other? – Philipp Nov 8 '17 at 10:14
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    @Philipp It is inspired by the question you cited, but I don't want to know why lobbying is considered free speech, or if it should be considered free speech. The main point is the question if the underlying perceived problem - money buys laws and votes - can be avoided, and how. – Thern Nov 8 '17 at 10:56
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    Control of the media is MUCH more powerful than spending millions of dollars on commercials and advocacy organizations. The media shapes public opinion 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and even worse, in the US, the media works hard pretending to be neutral and unbiased when they so clearly are not. – tnk479 Nov 8 '17 at 19:37
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    It's an interesting question, but seems more like a discussion topic than something with a clear answer. – user1530 Nov 8 '17 at 20:35

13 Answers 13

49

Many countries adopt some variant of solution (3):

Putting restrictions to the usage of wealth in political situations. This solution is used in many western states, but is of course a violation of free speech and the possibility to exercise political influence at will.

The assumption "of course this is a violation of free speech" is not universally shared.

USA

US courts have recently taken a broad interpretation of the First Amendment, which holds that spending money is a form of "speech" and therefore has strong constitutional protection. As a result, there is little or no restriction on spending in US elections.

Important caveats:

  • Victory does not always go to the best funded campaign: In 2016 Clinton outspent Trump by approximately $500 million.

  • It is possible that in the future, the US Supreme Court will take a less absolutist stance on political funding, opening the door to renewed attempts at campaign finance reform.

United Kingdom

The UK is a capitalist society with freedom of expression. A wealthy person is free to own one or more newspapers and use them to promote his or her views, and several billionaires do exactly that.

On the other hand:

Germany

Other countries take their own approaches. For example Germany has no limits on campaign spending, but also has strict rules on transparency, and generous public funding of political parties in order to level the playing field.

Conclusion

No right is absolute. A wealthy person has the right to spend money; but other citizens, individually or collectively, may decide certain things are not for sale.

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    It could also be the assumption that "Free speech is absolutely inviolable" that isn't universal, or some combination of those two. Europe is much more amenable to restricting kinds of speech, but even the US bans the proverbial "shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre" – Caleth Nov 8 '17 at 13:07
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    @VGR It does tell the whole story. Your comment is extremely misleading, the "free coverage" has nothing to do with campaign funding, this is not something that you can buy, just the estimate of how much the coverage by the media is worth. – Oleg Nov 8 '17 at 15:55
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    @Oleg Especially since the Clinton campaign was encouraging that coverage (as detailed in their leaked e-mails)... – reirab Nov 8 '17 at 16:16
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    @VGR "Trump received between two billion and five billion dollars in free coverage, while Clinton did not." And therein lies the problem: are we going to tell media outlets "You've spent more money covering Trump than Clinton, so now you're not allowed to cover Trump any more"? Because that's where the campaign finance "reform" logic leads. – Acccumulation Nov 8 '17 at 17:38
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    @Accumulation: The USA is not the entire universe. And rulings of the US Supreme Court are not the same as facts. – Royal Canadian Bandit Nov 8 '17 at 21:12
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I reject your basic hypothesis.

You're conflating influence with votes. It is not common to buy votes. We have secret ballots specifically to make this hard and laws to make it illegal. That's not to say it doesn't happen but it is not encouraged in any democratic society.

However, influencing voters is encouraged. This has been true since the dawn of democracy and continues to be true. There is a reasonable argument that we don't have a real democracy unless we have reasonable freedom to influence the electorate.

Note, a critical distinction here: even after all the influencing, you still have one vote and the billionaire still has one. At the ballot box, your vote counts exactly the same as hers. This is the essence of democracy.

Now, it is undoubtedly true that some people have more influence than others. Money certainly helps. But so do other factors e.g. celebrity. In fact, I'd argue that the most interesting thing about the last US election was not the influence of money but the influence of celebrity.

Again though, at the ballot box, every voter is able to choose what has swayed them and vote, equally, accordingly to their conscience. Sure, some people vote for the most bizarre/grotesque reasons and may well vote based on falsehoods or misrepresentations. But their votes were equal regardless of that.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am Nov 11 '17 at 16:49
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No incumbent fundraising

The simplest method in the United States would be to bar people who are currently in office from running for office, forming campaign committees, and asking for donations to political committees. This would get around the free speech issue, as it is a restriction on employees rather than citizens. Also, we aren't restricting the speech after the donation, we are restricting the donations themselves. And third parties can't support a candidate who is not on the ballot.

It gets rid of the worst aspect of the current system, which is that incumbents can seek donations for their reelection while in office and able to do favors. Short of finding cash in the freezer with audio tape of the promised result, it's nearly impossible to convict a politician of bribery. Yet unelected government employees can be told that they cannot allow someone with whom they're meeting to buy them coffee because it might go over the gift limits.

Make things simple. Bar all government employees, including the elected ones, from running for office while elected. Then there is no "campaign contribution" loophole. They have no reason to be taking money from anyone. We don't have to prove a quid pro quo. Just proving transfer of the money would be enough.

This would still allow politicians to raise money for their elections, when they aren't in office. But all elections would be fresh. No one would actually be an incumbent. Every election would be open. And traditionally, incumbents raise far more money than challengers (on average) and almost never lose.

Politicians could potentially promise donors that they would support them while in office. But the donors would have to trust in that. They couldn't withhold funding until the politician did what they wanted. Nor could they promise to provide funding immediately after the politician's support in a vote. A corrupt politician would instead have to trust the donor to be there for the next election.

This also diminishes the influence of media corporations. Currently someone wishing to influence a politician can buy a local or national media corporation and use that to promulgate their views (e.g. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com owns the Washington Post). They can even openly editorialize and call out specific politicians. And no one seems to find that concerning. In fact, those asking for a constitutional amendment specifically protect media (press) corporations from oversight.

This would upend the political system. Currently politicians spend a significant portion of their time raising money. This outlaws that entirely. No unseemly events where people with $50,000 to spend can have dinner with the sitting president. They could spend their entire terms doing their jobs. Perhaps that would give them time to review federal regulations so that legislators would pass laws rather than mere outlines that they expect the executive to fill out.

Presidents could spend their time making sure that the current laws are being executed properly. For example, they could ensure that the gun control system was updated when someone was convicted of a felony by making sure they knew at least as much as the state of Texas. Or that the gun control system followed up on inconsistent data.

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    I would worry about making revolving door worse. – user9389 Nov 8 '17 at 21:11
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    Even if I can't donate to a politician, I can still spend my own money running ads in favour of that politician, who just happens to be grateful and approve my pipeline against popular concerns. – gerrit Nov 9 '17 at 0:08
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    How about limiting the amount of time that politicians in office can receive donations to maybe 2-3 month before the next election? You'd get almost 4 years of real work out of them and then a couple of month craziness. Btw, Germany somewhat does this by only allowing political advertising in the couple of month prior to an election. – Sumyrda Nov 9 '17 at 8:20
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    @gerrit i get and agree with your comment, but to put a more idealistic spin on it - you run ads in favor of politicians who are politically aligned with your interests. Then it should not matter if they are grateful or not. – emory Nov 10 '17 at 15:23
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    I hate to be openly critical, but, I believe this will make things much worse. Elected officials would no longer have any incentive to maintain their reputation with the public and since it guarantees they cannot run for office again, it increases the incentive to trade favors for a cozy job or board appointment once their time in office ends. In the case of US House members, it would become ineffective as an institution of government due to their being no experience retained as the entire body would turn over in every election. – tnk479 Nov 12 '17 at 19:00
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Yes, there are other options. Lawrence Lessig offers an idea to address this in his book, Republic, Lost. You can read about this book here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic,_Lost

The idea is to require citizens to fund politics with mandatory 50$ contributions to any candidate(s) or issue campaign(s). This pumps more money into politics than the current state of affairs. Candidates could still choose to opt out and raise funds on their own. The idea is to make the funding of politics more democratic in the way that voting is democratic. I think it's a good idea if you want government to be more directly responsive to the will of the people.

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    Currently, there is optional $3 contribution on US tax form. But it creates another problem, as was exhibited in 2004: Dems had so many candidates who were in game just to get "free" public funding and personal name recognition that voices of more serious candidates drowned in the noise. Repubs had even worse problem (even more candidates: two rounds on TV, with "kids table" and "grown up table") in 2016 - only on this background of too many competing candidates Trump was able to win the primaries. – Peter M. Nov 10 '17 at 18:27
  • Yeah, well, the goal is to democratize funding in politics. That comes with benefits and consequences. But, I think there is at least some incentive for people to support candidates that both represent their political views and have a realistic change of winning elected office(s). – tnk479 Nov 10 '17 at 20:46
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    After 2004, I see contributing those $3 as false incentive to promote ego-searching candidates. If people want to support their candidates, supporting them directly does not create incentive for other candidates to expect being financed by the public. I think that solution is not more public support for all candidates (including noise candidates), but public taking more personal responsibility to support a candidate and vote. As Jefferson said, requirement of democracy is informed electorate. – Peter M. Nov 10 '17 at 21:00
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    Better than public campaign financing would be requirement for voting. Possibly in a form of a fine paid (charged on income tax refund) if taxpayer is eligible to vote but failed to register and vote. Australia does something like that. Lost of low-income people in USA do not bother to vote. – Peter M. Nov 10 '17 at 21:02
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    Our problems seem to run much deeper than campaign finance reform or a political science discussion about multi-member districts vs. single. We have epic levels of disinformation and people are living in bubbles and screaming at each other. For a huge swath of the voting public there is no tether to reality and no media channels capable of delivering reality. You see the left and the right pulling away from the middle and entrenching themselves into more radical positions. If something doesn't change I am genuinely concerned for the future. – tnk479 Nov 13 '17 at 14:39
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Reduce the incentive for wealthy individuals to feed money into the government. A Government that has the capacity to pick winners or losers or unduly influence natural market forces is bound to be on the receiving end of contributions from wealthy individuals/groups that want the government to weight the scales in their favor.

Whether it is to keep the government out of their business, or to use the government to keep competitors out of the market, wealthy people have an interest in the high return on investment government lobbying can provide.

Washington is a horribly corrupt city. The tax code is riddled with special favors for politically powerful interest groups. The budget is filled with handouts and subsidies for well-connected insiders. The regulatory apparatus is a playground for cronyism.

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    If the last para is a quote, it's not clear from where. – Faheem Mitha Nov 11 '17 at 12:30
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I guess this might be controversial.

One way that countries limit the political influence wielded by the wealthy or well-known is by having a non-elected chamber in their parliament.

In the UK we have the House of Lords.

The EU has the European Commission.

A couple of years ago I would have argued that there was no place in a democracy for non-elected politicians, but a lot has happened since then to change my mind. I now think that a non-elected chamber is an essential part of any functioning democracy. Without it we fall prey to the evils of populism and demagoguery. Maybe we still do even with a non-elected chamber. Perhaps there's some fine-tuning to be done about the balance of power between elected and non-elected? I am not arguing in favour of hereditary peerages - I think those are just crazy - but that's just my view of course.

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    While I agree with your sentiment you don't seem to have considered that this un-elected chamber may be influenced in other ways by individuals with money, or may be influenced themselves by possible personal monetary gains. – RobbG Nov 8 '17 at 14:23
  • @RobbG Sure, I guess that's true of all politicians. In some cases the non-elected politicians are the self-same wealthy influential people in the question. I'm not suggesting that a non-elected chamber gives you a perfect system; just that not having one leaves you open to a particular kind of problem, and that it's a tactic that some countries use. – Martin Nov 8 '17 at 14:25
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    For what it's worth the United States Senate was also originally an example of such a chamber. It didn't change to popular election until 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. – reirab Nov 8 '17 at 16:28
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am Nov 11 '17 at 16:46
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Make spending money on political advertising less effective.

You have defined in your beliefs about peoples rights that people are able to accumulate wealth and able to spend it on political advertising.

There is no way we can weasle out of this, without going against your opinion of what rights people have.

So don't try to stop people being able to spend money.

Simply make it so that it doesn't work as effectively any more, using the below options.These are basically ordered from least likely to infringe on your concept of freedom of speech to most.

  1. Properly fund public education.
  2. In your properly funded education, teach critical analysis in English (or whatever your first language is), History and Economics courses. One example from my history classes was WWII propaganda - what you could actually infer about history from asking "why would they choose to publish this particular bit of propaganda"?
  3. Public funding for candidates paid for by taxes. There are diminishing returns on additional advertising spend. If candidates have a budget of $50k vs $0, that is a huge difference. $100k vs $50k? Not so much.
  4. An effective and impartial media. Australia has an independent but publicly funded media organisation (ABC) with impartiality in it's charter. Note that the Australian model is unlikely to be the best implementation method to guarantee impartiality. The ABC encourages Truth in advertising through initiatives such as 'Fact Checker'
  5. Requiring political advertising to be labelled with the name of the person or organisation that funded it. "Coal is good for air quality" as an advert, carries a lot more weight if it is endorsed by the World Health Organisation than if it's endorsed by a mining company.
  6. Requiring disclosure of donations, in a timely manner with strict penalties. By making the public aware of the funding source, opportunities for corruption are fewer, and the public awareness of why certain people say certain things is more obvious.
  7. Laws preventing slander, libel and objectively false statements attacking other candidates.
  8. Laws requiring truth in advertising (more broad than 7, above, as it applies to nice things you say about yourself that aren't true, and more broadly protects other candidates)
  • The ABC is incredibly politically biased- totally Green obsessed. You missed the most powerful way- ordinary citizen rejecting it such as stop watching the advertisements and reject having lobbyists stand for your votes. Get the information to inform your vote yourself- that kills money politics in some sort of democracy especially one such the US with its limits. – user2617804 Nov 11 '17 at 10:07
  • @user2617804 - you say ordinary citizens are rejecting it. Do you have any data to support this? The most recent I have seen puts it 4th on a list of Australian Institutions for public trust - AFP, State Police, The High Court, then the ABC. It is ahead of The Reserve Bank, Churches, Non profits, all aspects of government and politics, unions. essentialvision.com.au/trust-in-institutions-10 – Scott Nov 12 '17 at 21:39
  • Not that they are rejecting it that they can reduce the power of money by rejecting advertising. 17% having a lot trust in the ABC is very low. – user2617804 Nov 13 '17 at 0:28
  • 17% is again the 4th highest in that exhaustive list of things that people are asked about. How exactly is 4th best out of 15 'very low'? – Scott Nov 13 '17 at 0:31
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If the concept is that democracy is about voting power and equality between citizens, then any system where there is a disparity based on the amount of wealth is undemocratic.

The US system has been warped by a couple of unnatural and, in terms of "Constitutional Originalism," invented SCOTUS concepts.

  1. Money = speech. This was first introduced to the US system in the 1976 Buckley v Valeo ruling, and was further entrenched in the more recent Citizens United ruling.
  2. Corporations have human free speech rights. An absurd concept that an artificial legal construct to protect business investors from liability confers human personhood was a ruling that came down, completely unrelated to any of the contested issues, in the Citizens United case.

Combine those two, and you have basically a system of legalized bribery, where corporations, or the very wealthy using shell organizations, can dump unlimited amounts of money. This "speech" right basically allows them to take the equivalent of a giant bullhorn and drown out all individual citizen voices.

Businesses, being businesses, will invest these massive amounts of money because the politicians, being beholden to them for their positions, and for lucrative "revolving door" lobbying or consulting positions, post-office, will pass measures that pay back those businesses many times over through legislation and direct government spending that favors those contributors.

The solution? Very simple.

  1. Compress the election cycles. The reason why so much money can be dumped in to the system is because the election cycles drag out months and months, with all of that TV advertising time available to be bought. Other nations have their election campaign seasons lasting 1 to 3 months, instead of the formal nearly year-long process for Presidential campaigns.
  2. Do not allow for private financing of elections. Public-only financing of campaigns would create an equal playing field for all candidates. It would limit the total amount of spending needed and allowed. It would mean that the people who finance the election would be the citizens, making the candidates not beholden to private special interests. People point to a multi-billion dollar price tag, but the amount of pork payback in the current US system costs tens to hundreds of billions of dollars. It would mean that full-time legislators would not have to spend almost all of their time whoring themselves and begging for money, and would instead spend that time doing the job they were sent there to do.
  3. Do not allow outside expenditures during election season. There is a difference between expressing a viewpoint, and paid advertising to try and influence an election outcome. This would cost the communications/entertainment conglomerate a few billion dollars, though, so, given the current system of bribery, it would be difficult to break the status quo. The current system is set up as a farce, with a lot of phony "community charity" organizations being set up as phony grass-roots organizations when they are actually conduits for corporate and wealthy donors. When the IRS rightly tried to prevent this, howls of partisan persecution went up, and the Obama administration caved in to the political pressure, removing all pretense of a non-bribery fueled system.

Washington Post - What is a 501(c)(4), anyway?

And, finally, for a less US-specific measure, "sunshine." Full, direct, simple public disclosure of money spent, by whom, and how would greatly reduce the influence of money on politics. The more that stuff can be hidden, the easier it is to peddle false and misleading propaganda and to disguise motivations behind the spending.

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    Citizens United did not declare that corporations have "human personhood" - this is a gross misrepresentation based on demagoguery. The ruling states that people do not lose the rights they have as individuals when they join together - members of an organization do not lose their rights when they incorporated. This applies whether this is a for-profit corporation, a non-profit, a union, or a few neighbors pitching in together on some signs (though the latter may run afoul of campaign finance rules, which conveniently inhibits grassroots opposition). – pluckedkiwi Nov 8 '17 at 17:16
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    @pluckedkiwi - sure it did. If it conferred human rights to corporations that is conferring personhood. Restricting speech or spending for a corporation does not in any way restrict an individual's ability to exercise their free speech, or to spend, as individual citizens. A corporation is not a bunch of individuals deciding to spend their individual money, it is an entity spending the collective shareholder value. Your distinction is a non sequitur. – PoloHoleSet Nov 8 '17 at 17:19
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    @PoloHoleSet it isn't individuals spending their money individually - that is the whole point of forming an organization. I don't think you understand the implications of your call to restrict speech to only those who are independently wealthy enough to buy airtime alone. Individuals pool their resources to do what they cannot do independently, at which time they do not lose their rights to speak. They can pool their money to rent billboard space instead of restricting billboards only to those who afford it without sharing the cost. No absurd "human personhood" is conveyed on an organization. – pluckedkiwi Nov 8 '17 at 17:34
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    To all - I think you are missing the bigger picture. The question is HOW to limit the power or influence of the wealthy over a democratic process. It is not "should it be done?" The ones objecting seem to have more issue with whether it should be done. I'm only stating how. – PoloHoleSet Nov 8 '17 at 18:23
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    Corporations are literally incapable of having opinions, or even intellect. Believing a corporation, a legal fiction with no physical existence and no mind, has any rights whatsoever is insanity, but it's a form of insanity we've long ago decided to accept. – barbecue Nov 8 '17 at 22:54
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Reduce the ability of money to translate into votes.

Lead people better. If they already have well established opinions, and trust their leaders people will vote for them regardless of campaign money. Advertising and news coverage are not very good at shaking the faith of true believers.

Educate people better. Critical thinking skills are widely touted as a vaccine against propaganda. Having a better understanding of politics may make people less concerned with the silliness it gets dressed in.

Protect privacy better. If advertisements and polls are harder to target, that makes the process more expensive leading to a lower rate of return. Without being able to say different things to different groups it is much harder to manipulate people without pushing another group the other way.

Make districts smaller. The more races you have to worry about the less effectively you can spend money. The more local issues are the less outside powers can accurately control them. The better you know your representative the less someone else's opinion of them matters.

Care about it, but don't stop at caring. If there is a problem it is your job to address it, to warn people about it, to do something, or to find someone who will. Voting is the least effective thing you can do to effect change. The joy and the pain of democracy is that you get the government you deserve.

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In Germany, it's more important for a politician to do what the people in his home state want than to do what a lobbyist wants. If the party in his state gives the politician a good place on the list than the politician will enter parliament. Proportional representation helps to motivate politicians to follow their parties agenda instead of following the agenda of lobbyists.

The second factor is campaign finance. Our government supports parties financially and as a result, parties don't need to raise money from corporate donors to compete.

Political ads aren't that expensive. Even for an US election, the combined expenses of both parties are less than the yearly marketing budget of Pampers.

Doing both proportional representation and public campaign focus doesn't completley eliminate the influence of lobbyists but it does go a long way.

The next step is to make sure that civil society has expertized on a variety of topics. Currently, lobbyists often have power because they are the people who understand certain topics the best.

Setting up independent organizations like customer reports that develop expertise helps to counter the expertise of lobbyists.

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This is a great question!

Since I only know about the United States political process, I can only honestly answer in the context of the United States.

The United States already accounts for this

The United States is not a democracy but is in fact a Democratic Republic.

To Quote everyones favorite Founding Father at the Moment: Alexander Hamilton

It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity

We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy

From what I understand of your question, you are in essence asking: How do we prevent the majority (people with money/influence) from enforcing its will (via politic ads/money) on the minority (averages joes)

The Founding Fathers understood that in a true democracy, the majority can enforce its will on the minority. Which is why we have the electoral college. The electoral college can allow for a candidate who has spent significantly less on an election to win over a candidate who has spent more.

A lot of people won't like this, but that's exactly what happened in the 2016 election.

As Royal Canadian Bandit pointed out, Clinton outspent Trump by about 500 million.

The Founding Fathers were truly ahead of their time when they created the United States, and they amazingly foresaw circumstances exactly like the one you would like to prevent.

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    "majority (people with money/influence) ... the minority (averages joes)": isn't this question about the exact opposite: how to counteract a minority of rich/influential people having more influence than the majority of normal people? – Steve Melnikoff Nov 8 '17 at 17:27
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    While it's true that an original rationale for having an electoral college was because electors were regarded, at the time, as being relatively free from undue influence, nowadays they mostly just rubber-stamp the candidate for their respective party. In that respect, the original intention has been almost entirely subverted. – Steve Melnikoff Nov 8 '17 at 17:33
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Influence can be reduced by two ways: empower people to participate in their public legislative branch (which should be open to the public) and eliminate paid advertising for government positions.

The problem is pretty diseased at the top. You could consider ignore the problem and work from mayoral positions, in small towns, where you don't have such problems.

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    This post looks like an answer from the point of "common sense". This may be valid or not, but the post itself may attract downvotes. Can you perhaps expand this idea by providing with references and more scientific background? – bytebuster Nov 8 '17 at 20:38
-1

A possible way around your dilemma may be to make a distinction between "free speech" and "loud speech". I define the latter as "speech made in such a way as to drown out the speech of others" (and in so doing, infringing on their free speech rights). I am pretty sure I am not allowed to set up a 20 kW loudspeaker system on Time Square to make my views heard 24 hours per day, so there is some precedent already.

The US constitution says that

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or the press

In my opinion, being "free" to speak ought not to mean "free to buy every available advertising slot so nobody else can get a word in edgeways". In other words - if I'm not allowed 20 kW of acoustic power on Time Square, why should I be allowed $200M of prime time TV?

Once you accept that premise, then setting reasonable boundaries on how much one individual or entity can spend saturating the "air waves" (and other forms of mass communication) is a short leap.

We already have some laws about the ownership of news outlets for the same reason: too much power / control in limited hands distorts the way in which information is disseminated and that is not in the best interest of the nation as a whole.

It may require a constitutional amendment to get from here to there (in the US) - but other countries have demonstrated that limiting the amount of time people can campaign, and the types and quantity of political advertising allowed, is MORE democratic -- not less.

  • Then who defines what the "reasonable boundaries" are? How long until the reasonable boundary is only what those in power think is appropriate? – Drunk Cynic Nov 13 '17 at 21:08
  • @DrunkCynic if we consider that government is there to promote the good of "all the people", then almost any limit they impose will be good for the vast majority. Only the ones who currently have outsized power / influence by virtue of their money (not their personhood in the "one person one vote" sense) stand to lose. Buying politicians is probably a thing that we should allow less of. But I see your point. On the other hand, with Citizens United you see what "those in power" think are "reasonable boundaries" today. Which is - none. And that's probably the wrong answer. – Floris Nov 13 '17 at 23:17
  • "Congress Shall Make No Law." Means a very definitive thing. Recommend including in your answer that this would take a Constitutional Amendment. – Drunk Cynic Nov 13 '17 at 23:22
  • See my last paragraph... "It may require a constitutional amendment to get from here to there (in the US)". – Floris Nov 13 '17 at 23:23
  • You've ruined it with the disclaimer. Implying that making this changes would be "more democratic," is an inherent good thing, These United States aren't a democracy. – Drunk Cynic Nov 13 '17 at 23:25

protected by Philipp Nov 8 '17 at 19:12

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