By Bradley Harrington
“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” — James Madison, Virginia State Convention, 1829 —
It’s an interesting thesis former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson puts forth in his recent column, “Money’s reign in politics nation’s No. 1 problem” (WTE, Aug. 9) — but it’s a failed thesis that needs challenging.
“Money’s dominance over politics,” Simpson says, “is the number one problem our nation faces. It is a growing crisis that prevents us from tackling anything else … Either we are a country that makes decisions based on the common good, or one where the size of your wallet determines the worth of your ideas.”
Virulently opposed to the Supreme Court’s affirmation of corporate political contributions as an extension of our freedoms of speech (Citizens United v. FEC, 2010), Simpson pleads passionately for us to “pass a 28th Amendment to our Constitution so that people, real persons — not money, corporations, unions or special interests, but ‘we the people’ — govern America.”
This proposed amendment, in essence, at least according to the website Simpson promotes at “Wyoming Promise” (www.wyomingpromise.org), would “overturn Citizens United v. FEC through a statewide ballot initiative.”
Yet, none of this addresses the key issue: What is it that everybody is trying to buy?
If, as in a few cases, it’s the right of a person or a company to put out a commercial advocating a particular political candidate, voluntarily-paid-for and voluntarily-observed, that IS an extension of my right to free speech, and needs to be left just the way it now is.
And if I decide I want to throw a few million dollars at someone I might happen to support politically, guess what Mr. Simpson? It’s MY money and I’ll spend it as I please, without you or your cronies getting your forceful fingers in my business.
If what’s being bought here is the “right” to influence political power, however — and it mostly is, such as anti-competitive monopoly franchise “rights” (Charter, CenturyLink), stifling licensing schemes (AMA, unions), subsidy plots (Great Lakes Aviation, Cheyenne’s DDA) — well, those are all different stories completely, as they all involve the use of force as an economic intervention.
What THIS kind of money is trying to buy is INFLUENCE, pure and simple — and the problem here is that the power’s there to be bought in the first place, not that there’s money to buy it.
Can you give me one good reason, Mr. Simpson, why ANY political hack should be able to manipulate the system for his gang’s benefit — or why any government, at any level, deserves the power to control our economic activities?
The root problem here Mr. Simpson, the one that you, your “Wyoming Promise” coalition and this 28th Amendment proposal all fail to see, is the arbitrary power — not the wealth that inevitably comes to feed on it, like buzzards around a carcass. Get rid of that power and the frenzy stops as well.
You say you want to crusade for the Constitution, Mr. Simpson? Very well, I’ll take you at your word. But this particular crusade, this 28th Amendment proposal you are supporting, is couched in terms of non-essentials and fails to even remotely deal with the actual scope of the problem. It simply stomps on more freedoms as a means of attempting to fix the problems created by the growth of that arbitrary power.
This is NOT money corrupting politics, Sir: This is politics — arbitrary, all-powerful, easily-influenced, mixed-economy politics — corrupting the integrity of money instead! And unless and until the issue of that arbitrary power is addressed then all its consequences will continue to materialize and your wishes will come to naught.
Do you really want to “get back to [the] basics of our Constitution and our political system,” Mr. Simpson? Then how about crusading for the abolition of the 16th (Income Tax) Amendment, engineered unconstitutionally by a progressive coalition a century ago and supported by every Supreme Court since?
Getting rid of the liars and thieves at the IRS would certainly go a long way towards establishing the “human liberty” and “responsible self-government” you spoke of, don’t you think Mr. Simpson? Can we then expect a forthcoming commentary on the virtues of uninhibited wealth-creation and the destructiveness of a communist “heavy progressive or graduated income tax” (Plank Two) on a supposedly-free nation’s economy? Probably not.
No, it’s not the “common good” nor “the size of your wallet” we should be worrying about here, Mr. Simpson: It’s whether or not any of us, rich or poor, still have the right to our lives, liberty and property in the face of governments seeking to take all of those rights away instead. As Madison observed above, power structures will “ever be liable to abuse” — and the more arbitrary the political power becomes, the greater the abuse grows as well.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on August 20, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
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