My post on the prospect of billionaires like Sheldon Adelson deciding to really dig deep and spend on politics prompted a certain amount of silly partisan responses (yes, there are liberal billionaires, too, but a world in which politics is a contest between competing teams of billionaires is a depressing idea) but also some interesting discussion. In particular, Chicounsel’s post:
My question to Matt is “So what?” Are you saying that it should be illegal for him to spend his own money in what amounts to the exercise of his First Amendment rights of free speech, to peacably assemble and petition the government?
Actually, no. One of the many things I don’t like about John McCain is that I think his vision of how to fix the campaign finance system is off-base. My answer would be more like Matt Weiner’s suggestion:
One possible answer is that we should prevent such extreme concentrations of wealth. John Rawls thought extreme concentrations of wealth were bad precisely because that much money led to disproportionate political power (and meant that people without the money were shut out of political power in important ways).
I think one should draw a distinction between the top-level and bottom-level issues here. It seems to me that the only way to prevent the super-duper-rich from having an unjustly large ability to influence the political process is simply to prevent such utterly massive concentrations of wealth to occur. On the flipside, things like Larry Bartels’ finding that legislators are only affected by the views of the richest two-thirds of their constituents are where proposals for public financing of campaigns or especially ideas like “patriot dollars” could come into play.
Photo by Flickr user Yomanumus used under a Creative Commons license