On April 29th, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could “prohibit judges and judicial candidates from personally soliciting funds for their campaigns”, in the case of, in the case of Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar. Much has been made of Chief Justice John Roberts remarks:
Politicians are expected to be appropriately responsive to the preferences of their supporters. Indeed, such “responsiveness is key to the very concept of self-governance through elected officials.” The same is not true of judges. In deciding cases, a judge is not to follow the preferences of his supporters, or provide any special consideration to his campaign donors.
Many inevitably saw this as an admission that politicians are expected to give campaign donors special consideration. In a political climate where billionaire campaign donors and major corporations can give as much as they like, this comes off as an acknowledgement that self-serving corruption is the nature of the political system. Such is why those hoping to accomplish change through electoral politics will always be disappointed.
Such are the contradictions of electoral democracy. Those with great wealth inevitably find ways to use it to secure more political favors for themselves at the expense of the rest of us. The system inevitably becomes increasingly rigged in their favor. To restrict their ability to use their wealth to influence elections is undeniably a violation of personal freedom, but so are the numerous subsidies, liability limits, licensing requirements, IP monopolies, military contracts, and competition stifling regulations that elites tend to support. As long as there is a state capable of imposing its will upon the rest of us, there will always be self-serving elites using it for their own gain. While electoral democracy may be more accountable than single party rule or monarchy, it still puts coercive power in the hands of politicians who are far removed from the people they supposedly represent.
Campaign finance reform is at best a band-aid measure with its own problems. Political Candidates are a part of the state, and limiting the transactions they can make in their official capacity as candidates is arguably little different than limiting the ability cops or judges to take bribes. That however does not prevent those with great wealth from finding unofficial means of influencing elections such as by influencing major media outlets. Preventing this would require major restrictions of freedom.
A far superior alternative would be replacing the coercive government system with a truly voluntarist one. That is one where all transactions are voluntary and everyone would be held fully liable for any damage done to others. In such a system wealth would be greater and more evenly distributed as transactions would be mutually beneficial. While this achieving this ideal cannot be done overnight, many are currently resisting unjust laws and creating alternatives to state institutions as well as big business. The state’s only tool is violence, as such its actions inevitably lead to loss, resentment and gross disparities of wealth and power. Finding voluntary alternatives to the state has to be where solving the problem of money in politics begins.