Tuesday, 20 November 2007

What's wrong with "private money" in public debate"

Labour says the Electoral Finance Bill will "stop people with money being able to buy votes for their party through advertising." Green Party whip Metiria Turei says the $120,000 restriction on third-party spending will "prevent those with deep wallets drowning out Kiwi groups and people with legitimate election issues." Various commentators are spinning the Labour/Green line that "there is no place in a democracy for private money in public debate..."

Why isn't there?

What's wrong with people with political opinions putting their own money where their mouth is? That's certainly infinitely preferable to the corruption that sees politicians putting their hand into your pocket to peddle their opinions, as Labour, the Greens, United Future and NZ First all insist on doing. They're putting their hand into your pocket, while restricting your own ability to do the same.

Let me say this: If "Kiwi groups" have "legitimate election issues" then let them find people with the same concerns to pay to air them. Using the power of the state to force others to pay for your opinions -- forcing people to pay who wouldn't do so voluntarily, or who may even disagree with your "issues" ... that's beyond disgusting.

Anyone who votes for this bill has no claim to be a supporter of either free speech or democracy.

What's wrong with saying "Don't vote for anyone who supports the Electoral Finance Bill?"
What's wrong with saying "Don't vote for anyone who supports the banning of BZP?"
What's wrong with saying "Don't vote for anyone who supports the criminalisation of protest."
What's wrong with saying that however much you damn well spend?

What's wrong is that offends those who wield political power, and they're going to use all the political power at their command to shut you up.

In six weeks, using your own money to express your own views is going to be illegal -- and it's going to be illegal for one third of your life.

It's supposed to be wrong to have private money in public debate. Why? Because it's supposed to be wrong to "buy" political power.

But is it? Even if it's really possible to "buy" political power, is it really wrong?

What's really wrong is giving politicians and legislators the power they have, power without limit, power to enter your bedroom and your boardroom, to tell you what you can and can't say, and how much you're allowed to spend to say it. then allowing any special interest group access to the levers of political power is inherently dangerous. But isn't that what we already have? The problem is not buying political power, it's with the power that politicians are given, and hwo much more they want to take.

As PJ O'Rourke says, giving money and power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

What's needed is not restrictions on buying political power, but on what politicians do with that power. What's needed are constitutional restrictions not on how much can be spent for a party to gain power, but on how much parties can do once they have power.

That is how you protect free speech.


  1. Is the Labour party cash-strapped, i.e. are they financial able to run a campaign in 08 without this EFB tax-teat?

  2. Labour supporters have traditionally donated less than their National counterparts. Nothing new there.

    Besides, it's hard to put your hand in your pocket when they're both held out ...

  3. What a complete bitch - so if you have money you don't have legitimate issues, or you're not genuinely a kiwi. Hello Lenin, hello Stalin.


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