Campaign Financing: An Ethical Tight-rope Walk

Thinking about campaign financing. . .All through history, it seems to me, people have compromised their ethics and morals to get things done–that is, those people who had ethics and morals. Some have compromised more, some less. I’ve compromised mine in my time. People rationalize this, and it’s complex, because up to a point compromising one’s ethics is, in some cases, ironically, the most ethical and moral thing to do. Sometimes the lesser of evils *is* worthwhile effectuating. Often it isn’t. But the rationalization applied to compromise, when it’s worthwhile, can be like a slowly building bad habit, even an addiction. Addiction, as addicts know, is a disease. Good people succumb to the rationalization of making deals for the sake of campaign finance–eg, “I’ll allow these food-safety rules to be relaxed to some extent, so that I can be elected, so that I can work for people’s health in other ways, or perhaps later reverse the slackening of regulation. It’s for the best in the long run.” It’s an ethical tightrope at best. Most people are going to fall off the tightrope. Most people will succumb to cynicism and compromise at its worst. Most people, after all, are not saints…The only way to mitigate the problem in America is to eliminate the current model of campaign financing.

Public financing is an option even now–but not *really*, as long as the alternative is available. One can’t compete in an election, Obama discovered, without the ability to raise campaign financing money freely. That is, one can’t unless we eliminate that ability and require everyone to use public financing of political campaigns, and public financing alone. And we should.

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