A few weeks back, a commenter to this site wrote that until money and politics are separated, then elections don’t matter. I couldn’t disagree with this sentiment more (if it were all about money, then we would have had President Steve Forbes). But, the root is can we separate money and politics?
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. The currently recognized version of the sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
You’ll notice that greed is on this list as are lust, envy, & gluttony – which all share the concept of getting more than you deserve built into them. So, 4 of the 7 Deadly Sins revolve around wanting too much or wanting more for the wrong reason.
In the Herman Melville novel, Moby Dick, Captain Ahab had the following thought:
Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my savage crew, and playing round their savageness even breeds a certain generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for the love of it they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held to their one final and romantic object — that final and romantic object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash — aye, cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by, and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this same cash would soon cashier Ahab. [Source: Melville, Herman (2007-10-18). Works of Herman Melville. Moby Dick, Omoo, Billy Budd, Sailor, The Piazza Tales & more (Mobi Collected Works) (Kindle Locations 19208-19216). MobileReference. Kindle Edition.]
One can go back even further into history to one of the Socratic dialogues, Hipparchus. From Wikipedia:
The primary aim of the dialogue is an attempt to define greed. A friend of Socrates argues that greed is a desire to profit from things of no value, but Socrates replies that no sensible man attempts to profit from worthless things, but inasfar as greed is a desire for profit, then it is a desire for the good, and thus everyone is greedy. The friend of Socrates thinks there is something wrong with Socrates’ argument, but cannot say what is wrong with it.
So, what can we interpret from over 2,600 years of recorded human discussion on greed – both philosophically and religiously? Greed is.
Greed is built into the human condition, and so trying to eliminate money from politics is a fools errand destined for failure. We may as well try to make pigs fly and robins crow.
Is all lost, then? Of course not. Part of the success of the American experiment was the creation of a system that pits your greed against my greed. A system of laws whereby we all can attempt to “profit” by our greed in competition against the greed of others. Only in the last 90 years, during attempts to implement flawed “progressive” policies that try to legislate and regulate human electoral behavior have elections become non-competitive. These more recent “progressive” implementations have been an abject failure and will always be an abject failure. Remember, greed is. It is not regulate-able. It can, however, be offset by competition on a level field.
So, instead of trying to limit money in politics, which thousands of years of human existence shows, will fail, let’s shine light on the expenditures. Which, today, is possible.
Remove campaign finance limits, but require the publication by a political candidate of any campaign donation within 48 hours to a public domain website – listing name & address of the donor, the amount of the donation, and the employer of the donor. If the donation comes from a Corporate source or a political action committee, then the officers of that entity (e.g. CEO, President, Treasurer, Recording Secretary, etc) need to provide their names & address, the amount of the donation, and their individual employers.
With both the Left & the Right having a broad array of available media outlets as well as an array of wealthy backers, any outsized donation can be fought in the political arena so that the battlefield of ideas is as level as possible.