Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Why is there so little money in U.S. politics?

George Will (who ought to be recovering this morning from sharing the same table at ABC with Al Franken!) has a good column on campaign financing, basing the logos on an article in an upcoming issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives. The thrust is this:

Although the growth of the regulatory state in the 20th century made
government vastly more important as an allocator of wealth and opportunity,
campaign spending as a fraction of national income did not grow during
the last nine decades of the 20th century. That is, it did not grow after the
coming of the secret ballot and civil service and other reforms that weakened
the vote-buying powers of political machines. This, the authors say, "suggests
that the private benefits bought through the campaign finance system are not
an increasing problem for our economy."

The consumption/participation model explains why political contributing, like
charitable giving and consumption generally, increases with per capita income
rather than with the value of government activity. It also explains why political
contributing by rent-seeking interest groups is so small relative to the
monetary value of government action.

The authors’ study of legislative decision-making accords with the extensive
social science literature that concludes that legislators’ voting is almost entirely
a function of their own beliefs and the preferences of their voters and their
party. The authors say that "after controlling adequately for legislator ideology,
[interest group] contributions have no detectable effects on legislative
behavior."

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