What is Democracy? (59): A Money Hole

comments 4
democracy / what is democracy?

At least in the US, it seems:

presidential campaign costs US

election costs include all major candidates' spending and cost of primaries, when known; they do not include outside spending

(source)

Barack Obama felt that he had to spent $730 million to win the 2008 election. That’s roughly the GDP of Timor-Leste.

The so-called killer argument of those in favor of unlimited election spending is that the cost of a ticket to the White House hasn’t kept up with US GDP, as if it should keep up with US GDP:

presidential campaign costs v gdp

(source)

I see absolutely no reason why a slower growth of campaign spending compared to the growth of GDP should automatically deflate our worries about campaign spending. After all, it’s not as if a country needs to spend more on elections as it becomes richer. On the contrary. If campaign spending is defended as a means to inform the public, then one could counter with the fact that people in wealthy countries tend to be better educated and to have good access to modern information sources. Hence, they don’t need to be “informed” by political parties or candidates, especially not if this “information” takes the form of a deluge of hatefilled ads and lying propaganda. The absolute level of campaign spending should remain a worry, wether or not it’s higher or lower than GDP or any other unrelated indicator.

And before you ask: yes, money in politics is a problem, and more money means more problems. If you’re not convinced try some older posts here, here, here, here and here.

Also, it goes without saying but I say it anyway: money is an issue in all types of elections, not only presidential ones. A record $6 billion will be spent on the 2012 elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Adjusted for inflation, that’s 60% more than the 2000 elections (source).

More posts in this series are here.

4 Comments

  1. Jones says

    The US badly needs elections to have modest public funding – in replacement of the private funding madness it has now.

    In Australia, we have a good system of public funding of elections. After elections, the Australian Electoral Commission allocates money to political parties and candidates based upon a system.

    Money (about $5 per vote now, rising a few cents per election) is handed out to parties and individuals to fund the democratic process.

    A result of the Australian funding system is that the private funding of elections is not leaned on as much by political parties as in the US (proportionally).

  2. Pingback: What is Democracy? (64): Plutocracy? | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

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