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One, every legislative enactment intended to regulate campaign finance has always been circumvented and this includes McCain-Feigold. Therefore, accepting this premise, campaign finance legislation is a product of fatuousness.
Two, I am in favor of complete disclosure rather than limits on raising money and/or spending money--with the latter being found unconstitutional viz. BUCKLEY v. VALEO. At least with complete disclosure the ultimate consumer, i.e., the voter, can know the identity of the supporter and the amount given and make an informed decision (if he or she wishes) on the basis of such information.


What Judge Posner said about intensity of preference does not fail because of the differences in utility coming from a dollar. Contributions are still a way to express intensity, even if a dollar from one person expresses a different degree of it than a dollar from another person. So limitations really do restrict one form of that expression, whether it bothers you or not.

As for the concern with liberal democratic principles, I am sympathetic with you, and I do believe it is obscured by a law-and-economics approach, even if it is not completely ignored (Posner's analysis did mention the potential difficulty in reaching the social optimum due to concentrations of private benefits).

David Welker

There is one major flaw with Posner's point concerning intensity - the market is NOT is not good enough at measuring "intensity" to make it worthwhile to allow the wealthy to make unlimited contributions. If someone who is wealthy makes a large contribution and someone who is not wealthy makes a small contribution, this obviously does not mean that the "intensity" of the more wealthy citizen's preferences is greater. You could only plausibly make that claim if you controlled for income.

The more significant and overwhelming result of allowing unlimited contributions by the wealthy is clear -- their preferences, however strong or weak in intensity, will far outweigh the preferences of less wealthy individuals.

Posner might respond that different wealthy individuals will counter-balance each other. One wealthy person might support a Republican, another a Democrat. There are two responses to this sort of point. First, this is an empirical matter and it is clear that income patterns and political preferences are not unrelated. Second, even if wealthy individuals did balance each other out, with respect to inter-party competition, it is quite clear that they would not weigh each other out with respect to intra-party competition. Of course, there are factions within parties, which makes this point a little more complicated, but to the extent that you think that wealthy individuals may have common backgrounds, interests, perspectives, and preferences, it seems that there is a danger that those preferences will be magnified, even if they are much less in intensity compared to the intensity of preference of lower income individuals.

Finally, there is another objection. This one is principled rather than utilitarian and contingent. While it is rather clear that from a utilitarian perspective, objection two above gives us every reason to think that it is a bad idea to allow wealthy individuals to buy influence, even if this did not occur, it violates equality norms and any reasonable principle of justice to weigh the political preferences of one individual several orders of magnitude greater than the preferences of another individual when the intensity of those political preferences are the same.

Trucchi e Guide

Is good to know it.

Martin Bento

Shiva wrote:

"What Judge Posner said about intensity of preference does not fail because of the differences in utility coming from a dollar. Contributions are still a way to express intensity, even if a dollar from one person expresses a different degree of it than a dollar from another person. "

Yes, it does fail, as a simple matter of mathematics. To claim that a result measures the influence of a variable, one must first isolate that variable. If the nominal size of a contribution measures both intensity of preference and marginal disutility of money for the donator, then it cannot be taken as "expressing" the first variable, as any possible size of donation can correspond to any nonzero intensity of preference, depending on utility.

Robert, to say that the fact that campaign finance laws are fatuous because they are circumvented is itself fatuous. Every law against murder has also been circumvented. Shall we then abandon our objections to murder?


Ok. I get it. Is this line of complaint kind of similar to the problem with making interpersonal comparisons of utility? Bare with me, I am a little new to this.

In light of the problem, can I instead say that the dollar amount of a campaign contribution measures the intensity of votersí preferences for a candidate simply as a matter of empirical fact? That campaign contributions measure the intensity of preferences seems like a totally plausible social scientific hypothesis. I would imagine there is a meaningful relationship there. Does that work? You would have to control for a varying utility of money. I mean contribution amount would express intensity, just not quite as lucidly as one would like. But even then, what Posner said would still hold, wouldn't it?

As others have already said, there may be better ways to express intensity of preferences, without the unfortunate side effects like "soft bribery" that contributions seem to have.

Martin Bento

shiva, yes, this is an instance of the problem of comparing utilities, though there are other problems with comparing utilities, and the market can be regarded as a solution to some of them, but not this one. Magnitude of contribution could probably be considered a reasonable measure of intensity of preference for a given donor at a given time, but not between donors, which is the primary issue here.

The only way one could say that contribution magnitude can, even crudely, map to intensity of preference would be if there were no correlation whatsoever between one's wealth and the substance of one's preferences. If political preferences were distributed equally across the income spectrum, then one could say that utility differences would average out. The problem with this assertion is that it is empirically false. Tax, trade, fiscal, and welfare policies affect classes differently. Often, so does foreign policy. Even in cases where it is not obvious that there is a difference in private interest among income groups, there seems to be a correlation. For example, it is not obvious that gay marriage particularly benefits or hurts any specific income group. Yet I believe polls did show a correlation between income and support for gay marriage, possibly as an artifact of another variable such as education, but for this purpose the cause of the correlation does not matter. If the correlation, for whatever reason, is nonzero, then magnitude of contribution does not map to intensity of preference, even approximately. It also does not matter, by the way, whether the correlation is linear across the entire income spectrum, or any other secondary attributes; only that there be a correlation. It is clear that such correlations generally exist, and I would be curious to know whether they have been any major contentious issues of the last ten years where there was no such correlation. It's possible, but I can't think of any likely candidates.


Advertising at this time is now free. It's called the World Wide Web. What we have been calling advertising up to now is intrusive and parasitizes the attention we mean to pay to other things--the TV show we're watching, the news story we're reading, the patch of roadside we're looking at when a billboard appears. I don't even want to see such campaign advertising on the Web, and there's no need for it. People will blog and link and Google and they will have their fill of the candidate and commentary. We are no longer a society of town squares and meeting halls. We don't need to pay for fireworks and banners and trucks to bring people in. Let campaign spending be set to zero!


"intensity of preference" has got noting to do with it. It's really all about tax write-offs and power politics. As Machivelli put it, "it's really a matter of Virtu, fortuna, & neccessite."


"Advertising at this time is now free. It's called the World Wide Web."

That is a gross overstatement of the level of access to the WWW. It may seem like the whole world to people who spend all of their free time on it, but it is not the whole world. Nor is it free, don't be delusional about the reach a blog can have.

I read Posner's post and thought to myself, wow, what a great argument for campaign limits, then I came to the sentence:

"My conclusion is that efforts to limit the size of campaign contributions are probably mistaken."

Well I am not in the habit of internalizing the bare preferences of judges, so I am not convinced.

If you believe that rich people "earned" or deserve their wealth then it makes sense to think that rich people should have superior influence over campaigns and politicians. However, if you yourself are NOT rich and believe that, then I pity your false-consciousness. Keep working hard, you will be rich too I am sure.

lincoln fan

A true reform would be to have campaigns totally funded by the taxpayers and to have the voters disperse the funds to the candidates of their choice.
This could work this way:
1. The congress would appropriate an amount based on the cost of the previous comparable campaign.
2. An equal share of these funds would be credited to a special account for each registered voter.
3. Each voter would electronically transfer credits to the campaign accounts of the candidates of his choice. No other credits to these accounts are allowed.
4. All campaign expenses would have to be paid from each candidates' account.

This system would provide a paper trail to assure that no "outside" money was used. Also, a check could easily be made to determine if the total spent was not more than the amount approriated.

Pi˘ Messenger

Gracias a Dios alguien que informa sobre algo!


Perhaps this is a separate issue, but I have always considered the issue of public funding of elections and campaign finance limits as intertwined. Many of the issues contribution limits fail to address (more competetive elections, "soft bribery," incumbency advantage) would be most effectively solved by dramatically limiting campaign expenditures and providing full public funding. Eliminating the need to fundraise by providing all candidates with a fixed amount on which to campaign would address these issues.
Whether this solution is constitutional is a completely different issue.

calico bass

i dont think a lot of people want publicly financed campaigns. in fact, the majority of people have an inate distrust for politicians and dont want to support either candidate and find supporting any politician as a waste. second of all, by having publicly financed campaigns i would implicitly be supporting someone i dont want in office. seems kind of counterintuitive to american democracy.


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protect the freedom of speech


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thanks for your post.perhaps you will like ed hardy


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Thank you, you always get to all new and used it
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Thank you, you always get to all new and used it


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