We have all been frustrated about figures showing how much money has been raised for a campaign, spent by organizations in order to influence the outcome of a race or bill, or paid to individuals who we are “not really sure what he or she did to earn it.” Saying that we should take money out of politics is another way of saying “[Such and such] has become too big.” There is only one problem with this attitude- it is wrong on its face.
Money does not make the world go round. Our desires are the reason everything gets done, and our desires are the responses of our values. We spend money to fill our needs and wants; we respond to the strength of physical needs, power, love, greed, compassion, or whatever desire is the most compelling. Money is not the culprit- it is simply given charges to go where it is sent. Money is merely the scoreboard of our values. It is a tool in the hands of the owner; we can blame money for the wrongs of this world no more than we can blame forks and knives for being overweight.
Benjamin Franklin said “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Culture is in crisis when the values of the individuals are corrupt; we can see the values of individuals by the way they spend money. And since values cannot be perceived in an empirical sense, we react to the things that reveal these values. When the values of a person are corrupt, they use what tools are available to pursue the goals; money is one of the tools available to them.
The fact that money is used for nefarious purposes does not make the correct uses of money illegitimate. Money is needed to spread a candidate’s name and message in a campaign, support the legitimate functions of governments, and persuade talented people to use their time to accomplish the goals of an organization. These are very expensive endeavors. There is a tendency to say that organizations and people can become too big; but they only do so because enough people support the same goals. Organizations have large budgets because enough people want these groups to pursue their goals; people command large salaries because they bear the burden of accomplishing the goals of the organization to the exclusion of their own goals.
Politics is downstream of culture; politicians win votes based on pledging to carry out the desires of the people who vote for them. We have allowed the government to become a tool for corrupt values- we have set the message that corporations, groups, and people can use the government to limit the liberties of others. A limited and restrained government does not have the power to limit individual liberties. When given the correct marching orders, politicians must comply to stay in office.
You can’t beat the market; in the long run, the market will win if the market is free. The marketplace of ideas is only effective at determine winning and losing ideas when individuals love liberty. We invest in ideas in order to see them come to fruition; people will stop funding ideas they no longer value, and the best ideas rise to the surface.