Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bleeding Heart Libertarian: Koch, Soros and Adelson are Idiots for Spending Money Buying Politicians

That appears to be the conclusion reached by Jason Brennan at Bleeding Heart Libertarian.

He writes:
Many people are convinced that money buys power, specifically, that campaign spending buys power. The worries are:

Money Makes Winners: Wealthy donors can give more money to candidates they favor. As a result–because these candidates get more money–they are more likely to win.

Money Shapes Winners: Wealthy donors can give more money to candidates they favor. As a result–because the candidates depend on the donations–they are more likely to vote in favor of the interest of the wealthy, rather than for their sincere policy preferences.

Both of these worries are entirely sensible and plausible. But are the worries true?...

There are a huge number of empirical papers that try to test, from a wide variety of angles using a wide variety of methods and data, both the Money Makes Winners and Money Shapes Winners theses. The results are pretty ambiguous. There are quite a few papers finding an effect, though not usually a huge one. There are many more papers finding no effect or failing to find an effect....
Aside from the question of whether empirical studies are the correct method for considering this subject, Brennan takes the ambiguous results and reaches an unambiguous conclusion:

My reading of that that campaign spending matters much less than most people think...

For the record, money can't influence always influence voters. It would be difficult, for example, to get Mexican-Americans to vote in favor of expanding programs to deport illegals. And the Obama administration was unsuccessful in getting the public behind a push to send troops to Syria. However, on other issues, such as climate change, which are complex issues and where the public doesn't have initial "skin in the game," the public can be manipulated by money-funded efforts.

When the Koch brothers, Soros and Adelson spend money, they may be attempting to influence grand designs of society, but where they are likely most effective is influencing policies that are complex and not in front of the public eye but that benefit their crony agendas of personal wealth expansion.

Brennan is making an error by looking at money influence as one big aggregated game. For billionaires, it is not. It is a skilled complex game that's played on many levels and it works. They own politicians, journalists, organizers and educators for all different kinds of reasons. Campaign donations are part of that game, which is not to say that if campaign donations were to be limited that crony deals wouldn't go on. Politicians have power and the crony elite will figure out one way or another to get at that power. Limiting the methods to get to politicians is not the answer, shrinking government, which thus shrinks the power of politicians is the only way to stop cronyism.


  1. Martin Armstrong Warns Of 2016 Constitutional Convention

    A very interesting political development has taken place, but you can bet the Democrats will fight tooth-and-nail to prevent it. This week the state legislature of Michigan became the 34th state to demand a “Constitutional Convention” in the United States. Pursuant to Article 5 of the US Constitution, if 2/3rds of the states call for such a convention, (meaning 34 states) it MUST take place. We will see if this is actually honored. At the very least, there is no time requirement so this could be dragged out for years.

    Nevertheless, in such a convention, the ENTIRE Constitution is subject to review and can be altered and changed. This could be everything from installing “social justice” to the dissolution of the federal government. Everything is on the table as if we were back in 1776 Philadelphia.

    This is an unprecedented event to amend the U.S. Constitution emerging from the states. Normally, Congress proposes a bill to amend the Constitution as was the case with income tax. Keep this one on your radar – we are looking at the potential for real change good or bad.
    Convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution
    A painting depicting the signing of the original United States Constitution.

    To guard against oppressive government of any kind, the authors of the United States Constitution sought to establish institutional checks and balances. In framing the Constitution as the fundamental embodiment of such safeguards, the Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1787,[11] at the invitation of the Continental Congress.[12] That is the last time a federal constitutional convention was convened in the United States.

  2. Whatever you want to say about Charles Koch, it is the fact that for many lean years he supported and published and otherwise kept in print the classics of Austrian economics and libertarian literature. Rothbard, Mises, Hayek and many others. Recent years will probably reveal themselves as a great tragedy of misplaced emphasis for the Kochs, but the total body of what they, actually Charles, have done should not be forgotten.

    1. Wait, so the Volker Fund was a Koch operation? This is news.

    2. Luhnow (Volker's nephew) lost his mind or whatever around 1963. Baldy Harper left Volker funding and work at FEE to found the Institute for Humane Studies. Charles at some point joined the board and became its major supporter. IHS first published Rothbard's Power and Market and The Ethics of Liberty. Charles hired Rothbard to write For a New Liberty (as I recall at any rate). I think Charles was brought into the movement by Robert LeFreve, a pure private property society guy. (This Bread is Mind)

  3. "shrinking government, which thus shrinks the power of politicians is the only way to stop cronyism."

    Throwing the baby out with the bath water isn't the only way to get rid of the bath water. A far better approach would be to clarify the demand for public goods.