Saturday, January 26, 2008

This is not an argument against the Electoral Finance Act

New socialist blog, Socialist Democracy has a post up against the Electoral Finance Act.

Amongst other points they argue:

My friend Bryce Edwards over at liberation has already set out many of the arguments why increased regulation of the electoral process is not necessarily a good thing, pointing out for example that the United States despite having one of the most restrictive sets of electoral finance laws in the world still in[sic] the political sphere is completely dominated by the rich and powerful.
Such hand waving tells us little of use. For a start is says nothing about how much worse things might be if the Unites States had no legislation. (Click here to read the rest of this post...)

Also, the legislative process in the United States is dramatically different from our own, meaning that laws need to pass a bicameral legislature and the the executive before being enacted. And neither of the main political parties in the US has anything near the internal discipline of our own. This means that law-making in the USA is messy in the extreme, with compromises and exemptions being appended to many laws. In the case of electoral finance law this makes it likely that laws will be riddled with loop-holes and quite possibly ineffective.

Finally, the fact that US has a political elite that is incredibly powerful, wealthy and politically active means that - quite possibly - even the best laws won't work there. In New Zealand, which is still a very unequal country but nothing like the US in terms of political inequality, it is on the other hand possible that effective constraints can be put in place.

If you want to argue about the Electoral Finance Act leave the US out of it. Concentrate on what the act will do here. Will it achieve it's desired ends. Will it have unintended consequences. Is it going to impede on key political freedoms. Socialist Democracy do some of this later on in their post but I'm still not convinced.

As far as I can tell, the act - while flawed - will make it harder for the wealthy to unduly and anonymously skew our electoral process. Some of the unintended consequences are more concerning, but I certainly don't buy the curtailing free speech argument. People will be as free as they have always been to speak on political matters. What will be changed is the extent to which wealth can be used to project this speech - a different matter altogether.

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