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When Campaign Finance Reform Has the Reverse Effect

Radley Balko (The Agitator) has an interesting article on actions of the Institute for Justice, which is helping some folks in Mississippi challenge the laws on spending to advocate for a political cause. The idea of such laws, of course, is to provide for openness and accountability in politics. In this case, however, it provides a major barrier to a citizens’ group’s efforts to advocate for a cause.

This is an area where I think liberal policy is largely a dismal failure. We keep writing new regulations, but I don’t think we’re getting cleaner or more intelligent elections.

As a result, political speech is amongst the most regulated types of speech in this country, in spite of the first amendment. The combination of regulating political speech, and creating a sort of media class that has special rights in terms of free speech actually makes such speech much less free.

Once the government gets to decide who really has free speech and who doesn’t, we have no protection from being placed in the class that “doesn’t.” Similarly, if the government can control the money that pays to disseminate speech, it can quite effectively silence whoever it would like.

Beware of laws—they often accomplish precisely the opposite of what they claim.

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