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Losing Free Speech?

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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Hrobertgar » Wed Mar 21, 2012 8:09 am

A part (probably a BIG part of why Congress is so entrenched is the now common practice of extreme Gerrymandering. Each side like to maximize their garanteed seats by setting up a few districts where they control 60% of registered voters and a very few where the other side controls 80%, leaving a few battleground areas of 55%-45%.

This means that the folks in the 80% areas will ALWAYS be re-elected no matter how bad people outside the district think they are. Yes, pork-barrell politics plays into it as well, but extreme Gerrymandering lets more partisan folks stay in office longer. In the Senate, which are statewide rather than gerrymandered districts, you see fewer bozos.

I would love to see more redistricting done with more georgraphy/local economy in mind rather than Congressional seat calculus, however that seems rather unlikely.

There have actually been a few examples over the last few years of fresh faces in Congress. Notably 1994, and 2010, and to lesser extent 2006. 1994 was noteworthy not just for the turnover, but also for the fact that many Freshman were new to politics. There were some changes, but the political machines brought most of the Freshman back in line or coughed them out again. In 2010 we seemed to learn that although some bad Congressmen can get tossed that even a bad Senator (Reid in NV, and the guy in Baltimore) could defeat a bad Candidate (Angle, O'Donnell). Thus replacing experienced politicians with more average folks is not easy.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Melathys » Wed Mar 21, 2012 9:26 am

Brekkie wrote:Well, I think the reason that keeps happening is because the system protects the status quo because of it's vested interest. So, for the most part, even when an incumbent Congressman loses, they are just replaced with more of the same by an effectively identical sell-out supported by big party interests.

It is rather enlightening that, despite over 36% of Americans considering themselves to be Independents, there are zero real Independents in Congress.
Candidates are so utterly dependent on corrupt funding sources, not to mention protecting their opportunity to retire into multi-million dollar lobbying jobs afterward, that nothing will ever change.

The Supreme Court treats campaign donation as a free speech issue, but I believe that goes against every democratic ideal we possess. Why should the voice of a rich man be worth more than that of a poor man? Why should people be allowed to have a larger voice due to their corporation being treated as a person with the same democratic voice as a real person? The corruption inherent in that world-view boggles my mind.

But candidates are dependent on the party institutions. Campaign financing needs major reform. I don't know exactly what the answer is. Maybe a non-partisan fund which provides a grant of campaign money to any candidate that raises a certain amount of support on their own.


The only major candidate that refuses to take money from interest groups and such, is labeled by the media as being a crazy extremist, and then otherwise ignored. Yet if you look into what his real plans are, and not just what you hear on tv, you realize he really has his shit together.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Fridmarr » Wed Mar 21, 2012 10:46 am

Brekkie wrote:Well, I think the reason that keeps happening is because the system protects the status quo because of it's vested interest. So, for the most part, even when an incumbent Congressman loses, they are just replaced with more of the same by an effectively identical sell-out supported by big party interests.

It is rather enlightening that, despite over 36% of Americans considering themselves to be Independents, there are zero real Independents in Congress.
Candidates are so utterly dependent on corrupt funding sources, not to mention protecting their opportunity to retire into multi-million dollar lobbying jobs afterward, that nothing will ever change.

The Supreme Court treats campaign donation as a free speech issue, but I believe that goes against every democratic ideal we possess. Why should the voice of a rich man be worth more than that of a poor man? Why should people be allowed to have a larger voice due to their corporation being treated as a person with the same democratic voice as a real person? The corruption inherent in that world-view boggles my mind.

But candidates are dependent on the party institutions. Campaign financing needs major reform. I don't know exactly what the answer is. Maybe a non-partisan fund which provides a grant of campaign money to any candidate that raises a certain amount of support on their own.

My perspective on that is a bit different.  To me, the absolute fundamental core tenent is personal liberty.  It is that freedom that empowers the individual to reach their potential, it is an absolute must.  Liberty pretty much demands a representative government so that ultimately the people are responsible, otherwise they are not free.  It also demands equality in the laws so that some people don't have inherent power over others.  One of the government's core responsiblity should be to protect that liberty.  Indeed, our declaration of independance makes reference to liberty as an inalienable right.  Further our constitution's preamble makes claim to its intent to protect our liberty, "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

 

So given that, the idea that we need to limit how a person or a group of people (which is what a corporation is) needs to be limited in what it can spend it's resources on is quite difficult to balance.  I assume your take is that the idea of campaign finance reform is to protect equality (democratic ideals), and that is indeed a proper cause.  However, people are not equal, they should have equal legal standing, but they aren't equal.  For instance a person will be able to go to a better government run college if he is smarter.  Is that equal treatment?  Well no, but it is equal legal standing.  Everyone had the same legal opportunity to compete for that position.

 

More than that though, it's a gigantic jar of flies that's nearly impossible to control.  You could legislate that campaigns can only be funded by a taxpayer created pot of money.  And to be honest, that is fine, there is no conflict with liberty in that design.  I would be OK with that, but it won't solve the problem.  It doesn't truly give people equal voice.  I mean, if someone can't give to the campaign, are you going to stop them from taking out a TV commercial with their own money espousing their beliefs too?  What about an advertisment in the local/national newspaper?  What about Op Ed writers in the news media?  What about the entire media industry in which almost all of their work has a political motivation?  All of which can be made more powerful with money.  How do you legislate and control all of that to keep the voice equal?  I could literally go on ad nausem here.

 

That said, I think Lobbying or Campaign donations (which while similar are really pretty different issues to solve) are merely a symptom of the problem.  If the axiom "absolute power corrupts absolutely" is true, then you can see that power and corruption increase proportionately.  You could legislate all day long, but you won't be able to legislate away corruption.  Fivelives touched on this earlier, but we really have a system where roughly 600 people in the federal government rule the country with almost unfettered power at this point.  It's been decided that they (or other levels of gov't) can take away your property (with reasonable compensation) for whatever reason they want, and soon it's going to be decided whether or not they can tell you that you MUST purchase a product, because they believe that you need it, and it's in "the government's interest" that you have it.  That's an amazing amount of power, and being at the federal level it's far enough abstracted from the people that it is nearly impossible to hold it accountable.  Reducing the government's power will reduce the amount of corruption.  Moving power to local levels increases accountability.  As long as we have this gigantic all powerful federal government, this problem isn't going to go away.

Anyhow that's my 2 cents. 

 
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Melathys » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:30 am

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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Brekkie » Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:43 am

Melathys wrote:
Brekkie wrote:Well, I think the reason that keeps happening is because the system protects the status quo because of it's vested interest. So, for the most part, even when an incumbent Congressman loses, they are just replaced with more of the same by an effectively identical sell-out supported by big party interests.

It is rather enlightening that, despite over 36% of Americans considering themselves to be Independents, there are zero real Independents in Congress.
Candidates are so utterly dependent on corrupt funding sources, not to mention protecting their opportunity to retire into multi-million dollar lobbying jobs afterward, that nothing will ever change.

The Supreme Court treats campaign donation as a free speech issue, but I believe that goes against every democratic ideal we possess. Why should the voice of a rich man be worth more than that of a poor man? Why should people be allowed to have a larger voice due to their corporation being treated as a person with the same democratic voice as a real person? The corruption inherent in that world-view boggles my mind.

But candidates are dependent on the party institutions. Campaign financing needs major reform. I don't know exactly what the answer is. Maybe a non-partisan fund which provides a grant of campaign money to any candidate that raises a certain amount of support on their own.


The only major candidate that refuses to take money from interest groups and such, is labeled by the media as being a crazy extremist, and then otherwise ignored. Yet if you look into what his real plans are, and not just what you hear on tv, you realize he really has his shit together.


If you're talking about Ron Paul, it's not because of his financing that most people consider him to be batshit-insane, it's his positions. And no, I'm not going off second hand smear information. I've actually read most of his position papers. That's the single greatest thing about Ron Paul; he's consistent and quite blunt. So it's very difficult to reasonably accuse someone of misunderstanding his intent. I understand his intent very well. And it makes me think him a total nut job.

But no, clearly it's all just a big conspiracy by the Main Stream Media trying to suppress The Truth about Our Messiah Dr. Paul.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Fridmarr » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:03 pm

Lol is that pic real?
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby KysenMurrin » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:15 pm

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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Brekkie » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:23 pm

Fridmarr wrote:
Brekkie wrote:Well, I think the reason that keeps happening is because the system protects the status quo because of it's vested interest. So, for the most part, even when an incumbent Congressman loses, they are just replaced with more of the same by an effectively identical sell-out supported by big party interests.

It is rather enlightening that, despite over 36% of Americans considering themselves to be Independents, there are zero real Independents in Congress.
Candidates are so utterly dependent on corrupt funding sources, not to mention protecting their opportunity to retire into multi-million dollar lobbying jobs afterward, that nothing will ever change.

The Supreme Court treats campaign donation as a free speech issue, but I believe that goes against every democratic ideal we possess. Why should the voice of a rich man be worth more than that of a poor man? Why should people be allowed to have a larger voice due to their corporation being treated as a person with the same democratic voice as a real person? The corruption inherent in that world-view boggles my mind.

But candidates are dependent on the party institutions. Campaign financing needs major reform. I don't know exactly what the answer is. Maybe a non-partisan fund which provides a grant of campaign money to any candidate that raises a certain amount of support on their own.

My perspective on that is a bit different.  To me, the absolute fundamental core tenent is personal liberty.  It is that freedom that empowers the individual to reach their potential, it is an absolute must.  Liberty pretty much demands a representative government so that ultimately the people are responsible, otherwise they are not free.  It also demands equality in the laws so that some people don't have inherent power over others.  One of the government's core responsiblity should be to protect that liberty.  Indeed, our declaration of independance makes reference to liberty as an inalienable right.  Further our constitution's preamble makes claim to its intent to protect our liberty, "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

 

So given that, the idea that we need to limit how a person or a group of people (which is what a corporation is) needs to be limited in what it can spend it's resources on is quite difficult to balance.  I assume your take is that the idea of campaign finance reform is to protect equality (democratic ideals), and that is indeed a proper cause.  However, people are not equal, they should have equal legal standing, but they aren't equal.  For instance a person will be able to go to a better government run college if he is smarter.  Is that equal treatment?  Well no, but it is equal legal standing.  Everyone had the same legal opportunity to compete for that position.

 

More than that though, it's a gigantic jar of flies that's nearly impossible to control.  You could legislate that campaigns can only be funded by a taxpayer created pot of money.  And to be honest, that is fine, there is no conflict with liberty in that design.  I would be OK with that, but it won't solve the problem.  It doesn't truly give people equal voice.  I mean, if someone can't give to the campaign, are you going to stop them from taking out a TV commercial with their own money espousing their beliefs too?  What about an advertisment in the local/national newspaper?  What about Op Ed writers in the news media?  What about the entire media industry in which almost all of their work has a political motivation?  All of which can be made more powerful with money.  How do you legislate and control all of that to keep the voice equal?  I could literally go on ad nausem here.

 

That said, I think Lobbying or Campaign donations (which while similar are really pretty different issues to solve) are merely a symptom of the problem.  If the axiom "absolute power corrupts absolutely" is true, then you can see that power and corruption increase proportionately.  You could legislate all day long, but you won't be able to legislate away corruption.  Fivelives touched on this earlier, but we really have a system where roughly 600 people in the federal government rule the country with almost unfettered power at this point.  It's been decided that they (or other levels of gov't) can take away your property (with reasonable compensation) for whatever reason they want, and soon it's going to be decided whether or not they can tell you that you MUST purchase a product, because they believe that you need it, and it's in "the government's interest" that you have it.  That's an amazing amount of power, and being at the federal level it's far enough abstracted from the people that it is nearly impossible to hold it accountable.  Reducing the government's power will reduce the amount of corruption.  Moving power to local levels increases accountability.  As long as we have this gigantic all powerful federal government, this problem isn't going to go away.

Anyhow that's my 2 cents. 

 



Ah, but see, there is a very important point to be made here.

There is a very important distinction between a person (or group of persons) advocating a candidate or course of action in the realm of public debate, and that candidate simply suddenly having a ton of money through anonymous under-the-table deals in smokey rooms for which there is no clear oversight or disclosure of the return that donor expects in exchange.

If I, Company Gidget, which manufactures Widgets, that are made out of Wood, pay for advertisements advocating the opening of national forestry reserves to logging which would decrease the cost of timber on the open market and thus boost Company Gidget's profits and allow me to expand my business which would create more jobs, I am perfectly allowed to do so. In fact, such a thing is fantastic, because it is raising awareness in the public eye of the issue, and encouraging it's debate based on merit. And I would be convincing the public to support my motion based on the merits of my position. Not only that, but the people would see that it was ME advocating it, a Widget Manufacturer, and take that context into proper account.

On the other hand...

If I, Company Gidget, instead create an anonymous Super PAC, into which I invest several million dollars, and which then provides a massive amount of funding to Politician Charlie on the understanding that when in office Charlie will use his power to open the forestry reserves to logging, boosting my profits, this is a quite different matter entirely.


In the later case, free speech has not been exercised. Congressman Charlie has been BOUGHT.
There are numerous side effects as well:

-The debate over opening up the forestry reserves to logging NEVER ENTERS PUBLIC DEBATE. The public may not even be aware it was at issue at all. Thus, people (or groups of people, say, Company Didget which imports wood from overseas to make Widgets, and which thus would lose money from this deal) who oppose the action never get a proper chance to debate against it at all.

-Not only do citizens who oppose the measure never get a chance to debate the measure on it's actual merits, the CONGRESSMEN THEMSELVES who are voting on it never even consider the measure on it's merits at all! Their votes on the matter are already claimed. Bought and paid for! Regardless of how they actually feel on the matter. They can renig on the understanding with Company Gidget if they really want to, but the chances are that would result in them losing any future funding from not only Company Gidget, but from all other companies as well, because word would get out that Politician Charlie is unreliable and doesn't honor his "understandings".

-Charlie will likely tell himself that this is really quite a minor issue in the scheme of things, not worth fighting over, because what do some trees really matter to America anyway? He'll tell himself he is just picking his battles, waiting for the issues that REALLY matter to the country and the American People. Except that fateful moment of breaking the mold and following his conscience against his "understandings" never quite seems to come. Oh, I'll really start after I get re-elected this next time. After I manage to get on that important committee which will really let me do some good. Oh it looks like I might have a shot for Vice President in the next few years, I'll really be able to stand up for what I believe in then! I'm not corrupt, I'm a pragmatic patriot! And besides, I'm sort of just following the desires of my constituents after all! Can't argue with all the money I've been getting for our district.

-If you think about it for a minute, would it really be NECESSARY to use the later tactic rather than the former, if the idea you want to advocate was REALLY so meritorious and justifiable? If it made so much sense for the overall good, why does it need to take place behind closed doors? What are the implications of that?


Are Corporations REALLY "groups of people"? Sure, they CONTAIN people, but all those people are hardly voiceless. They have their individual ability to advocate positions just like any citizen, using their voice, their pocketbook, and their vote. Surely, if opening the forestry reserves is so good for Company Gidget, all the employees who work for Company Gidget will see that and go out and collectively advocate it. Why does Company Gidget its self need its own, separate, ADDITIONAL voice? A company is not a person. All the people the company contains are persons. Considering the company a separate, and equal entity with political power of its own is a dangerous concept. If I happen to be a rich man, how many of these separate entities am I allowed to create? How many extra voices and votes am I allowed to buy for myself?

I believe in 1 Person, 1 Voice, 1 Vote. Period.
I do not argue against money being a form of expression of free speech. On the contrary, it's possibly the most powerful expression of free speech. But allowing your money to buy you more influence than any other single person has over the political process is dangerous. What happens when the interests of 1 rich man and 3 poor men conflict? Who wins? If the answer is the 1 man wins over the 3, we do not live in a democratic society.

Additionally, Companies are inherently self-interested. They actually have to be, by law. Henry Ford was actually successfully sued by his stockholders because he raised the minimum wage of his workers for partly humanitarian reasons. The courts ruled that, while his ideas about a better society were nice, he had a legal obligation to maximize profits to the greatest extent permitted by lawful practices. His concept was that if his workers made enough money to be able to afford the cars they made, they would in turn care a great deal more about producing high quality workmanship, and while this idea turned out to be true, it was not enough at the time. Ford returned to paying the lower wage.

All this is great, economically. But if you suddenly allow a company, as it's own entity separate from the actual people composing it, to have a voice in politics, things get ugly. The Company does not care about what is good for the country overall. Or what is best for the wider system of networks. Or what is good for the American People. The company cares about extracting profit. By all means within the law. Using every trick available.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Koatanga » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:58 pm

As always, the devil is in the details. If you have a pool of public money for campaign financing, then you have to figure out a way to dole it out such that there is money for minor parties and independents while avoiding the potential abuse of someone creating a political party just to get some free money.

Make the restrictions too tight, and you strangle out the minor parties and independents. Make them too loose and you have widespread abuse.

Of course the people making the rules of how to dole out that money will be from the major parties, so they will do all they can to choke out minor parties and independents in order to protect their turf (and money).
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Fivelives » Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:48 pm

Brekkie wrote:Campaign financing needs major reform. I don't know exactly what the answer is.


That's the problem in a nutshell with all this debate going on here (and pretty much everywhere else). We are able to recognize that a problem exists in certain areas, but we have no idea how to fix it. It's not like a car or computer, where given a list of symptoms a technician can diagnose the problem and fix it - it's far more complicated. Even if we consider that we could use the "physician's last resort" and treat symptoms as they arise, every treatment we could do would raise a host more problems.

Koatanga, there will always be abuses of the system. Any system, no matter what it is, will be abused by the people who "use" it. There is no amount of tightening that can ever prevent that. And the major parties have already throttled the minors and independents - simply by not allowing them to participate in major campaign milestones (such as debates - I can only think of one example where there was a third party in a debate in my lifetime) and by controlling the media* so that smaller candidates get no exposure.

* By "controlling the media" I'm not talking some sort of conspiracy, but rather the political leanings of the media outlet itself as well as the amount of time spent covering candidates. The republican and democrat parties have proven over the last 100+ years or so that votes for independents or small party candidates are essentially "wasted votes" so the media won't flock to them like they do to the major candidates, which in turn lowers the minors chances even further. It's a catch .22.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Jabari » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:22 pm

Ack - I missed a bunch of this. Lots of bits and pieces to respond to...

Brekkie wrote:Fridmarr,

I'm enjoying our discussion, so thanks for taking the time.

Same, and it's a discussion worth having. It's nice in that it hasn't degenerated into what these things usually do, as well. :)

Brekkie wrote:I really don't know what to call myself honestly, when it comes to political ideology.

As a note of reference (if it wasn't already obvious), I consider myself a minarchist - with a couple exceptions as below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchist

Brekkie wrote:-I believe in greatly reducing the size of the Federal Government (which falls in line with the Libertarian outlook), however there are several things that are VERY important to me that I think the investment made by the Federal Government should be greatly increased in because they cannot and will not be provided effectively by the private sector because of the Free Rider and Tragedy of the Commons problems (which puts me contrary to Libertarianism). Those areas are Science in basic research on the frontiers of understanding where investment is not yet profitable on it's own, and infrastructure such as roads, electrical grid and power generation in general, internet to rural areas, etc. A lot of things are falling apart because they have not be replaced since FDR had them originally built putting Great Depression unemployed to work. I don't think infrastructure can ever be a bad investment of tax money, and it will never get paid for on its own by private companies responsible for profit margins.

I'll agree on the infrastructure stuff (which a "pure minarchist" wouldn't), but not the science/research stuff. Science-types of things are going to be better handled by private companies with a profit motive in mind IMHO (though you will need some government oversight of IP-law so that effort isn't stolen).

Brekkie wrote:-I think the tax rate should be less in the middle brackets and higher in the upper brackets, and that complaints about taxes on the rich are ridiculous. Because we have a progressive tax system, it's not like there ever stops being an incentive to earn more money, and people will always try to keep doing so, so claiming it punishes people for success is totally absurd. the drivers of the economy are the middle class with purchasing power through moderate disposable income. The lower class doesn't push the economy because all they can afford is essentials, and the upper class does not because someone making 400 times a Middle Class earnings does not purchase 400 times more stuff. They buy their one or two luxury cars and maybe a yacht if they are feeling especially extravagant, and buy a house that costs maybe double or triple what a middle class family pays for their house. The rest of that money just sits there, moving other imaginary money in order to make more imaginary money. Wealthy quality of life does not decrease due to a higher tax burden, and they make little contribution back to the economy by keeping more of their earnings. That is not true for the lower brackets.

Income tax is theft. Talk about "tax brackets" and such doesn't even register with me - the only allowable income tax bracket is 0.

There are 2 options for the government to generate income:
1) Import tariffs - this is solely how the government was run initially (until Hamilton and his band of bankster stooges started up the Whiskey Tax among others), and certainly has a place today. Especially where there are labor and environmental "operating conditions" differences (looking at China, but they're not the only ones).

2) A "Consumption Tax" of some sort (such as a sales tax). The Fair Tax is something I can get behind in principle. (As a replacement of the income tax, not in addition to!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairTax

Brekkie wrote:Spending is most certainly the biggest part of the issue. I actually think that looking at the issue from the perspective of 'we are taxing too much" or "we aren't taxing enough" is coming at it from the wrong direction entirely.

Correct. Plus, there's the "Laffer Curve" to deal with as well - just ask California and Illinois (which have seen their income go DOWN after they raised taxes recently, as both people and business have fled those states).

Brekkie wrote:... make a list.
Examples would include: JabNote: I numbered these for convenience
1) Defense
2) Advance in science which will drive the economy of the future, but which has no profitable application today
3) Networks of social infrastructure and transportation
4) Oversight and management of natural resources to prevent Tragedy of the Commons
5) Organizations of readiness, prepared to combat natural disasters or health concerns
6) Regulatory agencies for the insurance of public safety such as the FDA (because looking up every single product on the BBB is inefficient)

Hmm - I could see #s 1, 3, 4, and maybe 6 (depending on the implementation), noting that the FDA in its current form is a disaster. #5 is done far better at a local level (compare what happened during Katrina to the huge floods in the midwest). Actually, even #3 might be done better at a local (state) level as well. #2 should be private as I mentioned before - someone will figure out a profitable application if the research is worth doing.

Add in the basics (court system and police), and that about covers everything the government should do. :)

Fridmarr wrote:If people were to somehow make such a list, one thing that is vital is a determination at what level in government they belong. There are tons of things that the federal government does that are fine as a function of government, but are by far better handled at more local levels.

You know, the original intent was for the states to compete with each other on things like this. That totally disappeared along the way someplace as the federal has taken over everything. I heard that when IL recently did their business tax hikes, the IA gov't bought a ton of radio commercials on Chicago stations saying "come to Iowa - we're much better for business!" If that happened more often and for more things (and more important things), we'd all be better off. The socialists could have their states, and the anarchists (using the term properly) could have theirs, and people could choose where they wanted to live.

Hrobertgar wrote:Thus replacing experienced politicians with more average folks is not easy.

It would be if we actually had an independent Executive branch that would throw them all in jail for corruption and accepting bribes when appropriate. (Aka: all of them, all the time, at the moment) *laugh*

"Checks and Balances" is just gone. All 3 branches are just one "bi-factional ruling elite" right now.

The other lesson to be learned, unfortunately, is that we simply can't "vote our way out of it."

Brekkie wrote:The Supreme Court treats campaign donation as a free speech issue, but I believe that goes against every democratic ideal we possess.

Watch your terminology, here. The Founders were scared to death of a "democracy", and with good reason.
(There's a reason the 17th Amendment is absolutely reviled by libertarians in general. Too much "democracy", not enough "republic".)

Fridmarr wrote:To me, the absolute fundamental core tenent is personal liberty.

:D

This really is the core issue, isn't it? You (and I) have this as a "first principle", from which everything else flows. Most people, it seems, don't - at least not when you get to their positions - they just want to control different aspects of people's lives. *waves at Santorum*

Either that, or people mistake "equality of results" for "equality of opportunity". The second one is what is guaranteed, not the first. At least this mistake can be corrected, if the person has an open mind. (Though most of the "tax the rich" types are well beyond hope at this point. *shrug*)

Fridmarr wrote:That's an amazing amount of power, and being at the federal level it's far enough abstracted from the people that it is nearly impossible to hold it accountable. Reducing the government's power will reduce the amount of corruption. Moving power to local levels increases accountability. As long as we have this gigantic all powerful federal government, this problem isn't going to go away.

Absolutely.

Brekkie wrote:I believe in 1 Person, 1 Voice, 1 Vote. Period.


“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
― (credited to) Alexis de Tocqueville

How many years are we at, again?

Oh. :(
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Hrobertgar » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:30 pm

The super PAC thing, is not the good outcome, but it is a wash between the two parties. Republicans have big business, and Democrats have big unions. I do think Super PACs should have a certain level of disclosure requirements as to the source of their funding, as well as a burden of proof regarding being independent of a candidate.

I think what would also really help is to require all candidates to track and list their donors even if they do not take public funding, something which is not currently requried. In 20008, McCain took public financing and had to disclose all donations - as he should have. Obama discovered how much he could get by not taking public financing and made the obvious choice. However Obama was not requried to disclose comparable details of his donations after taking in unprecedented sums of money. They really should change the rules so that all candidates have comparable reporting requirements regardless of the source of that funding, public financing or otherwise. Again, I am not blaming Obama for following the rules on reporting or for being able to successfully raise such insane amounts of money, just pointing out that the system should treat the situations comparably to increase transparency in the process. And I am dissapointed this was not remedied after the 2008 election.

Really, I want ALL parties spending money in an election to have the same fairly strict reporting requirements as to the sources of the money, just like they must state whether or not a candidate specifically endorses an ad.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Fridmarr » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:36 pm

Brekkie wrote:Ah, but see, there is a very important point to be made here.

There is a very important distinction between a person (or group of persons) advocating a candidate or course of action in the realm of public debate, and that candidate simply suddenly having a ton of money through anonymous under-the-table deals in smokey rooms for which there is no clear oversight or disclosure of the return that donor expects in exchange.

If I, Company Gidget, which manufactures Widgets, that are made out of Wood, pay for advertisements advocating the opening of national forestry reserves to logging which would decrease the cost of timber on the open market and thus boost Company Gidget's profits and allow me to expand my business which would create more jobs, I am perfectly allowed to do so. In fact, such a thing is fantastic, because it is raising awareness in the public eye of the issue, and encouraging it's debate based on merit. And I would be convincing the public to support my motion based on the merits of my position. Not only that, but the people would see that it was ME advocating it, a Widget Manufacturer, and take that context into proper account.

On the other hand...

If I, Company Gidget, instead create an anonymous Super PAC, into which I invest several million dollars, and which then provides a massive amount of funding to Politician Charlie on the understanding that when in office Charlie will use his power to open the forestry reserves to logging, boosting my profits, this is a quite different matter entirely.


In the later case, free speech has not been exercised. Congressman Charlie has been BOUGHT.
There are numerous side effects as well:

-The debate over opening up the forestry reserves to logging NEVER ENTERS PUBLIC DEBATE. The public may not even be aware it was at issue at all. Thus, people (or groups of people, say, Company Didget which imports wood from overseas to make Widgets, and which thus would lose money from this deal) who oppose the action never get a proper chance to debate against it at all.

-Not only do citizens who oppose the measure never get a chance to debate the measure on it's actual merits, the CONGRESSMEN THEMSELVES who are voting on it never even consider the measure on it's merits at all! Their votes on the matter are already claimed. Bought and paid for! Regardless of how they actually feel on the matter. They can renig on the understanding with Company Gidget if they really want to, but the chances are that would result in them losing any future funding from not only Company Gidget, but from all other companies as well, because word would get out that Politician Charlie is unreliable and doesn't honor his "understandings".

-Charlie will likely tell himself that this is really quite a minor issue in the scheme of things, not worth fighting over, because what do some trees really matter to America anyway? He'll tell himself he is just picking his battles, waiting for the issues that REALLY matter to the country and the American People. Except that fateful moment of breaking the mold and following his conscience against his "understandings" never quite seems to come. Oh, I'll really start after I get re-elected this next time. After I manage to get on that important committee which will really let me do some good. Oh it looks like I might have a shot for Vice President in the next few years, I'll really be able to stand up for what I believe in then! I'm not corrupt, I'm a pragmatic patriot! And besides, I'm sort of just following the desires of my constituents after all! Can't argue with all the money I've been getting for our district.

-If you think about it for a minute, would it really be NECESSARY to use the later tactic rather than the former, if the idea you want to advocate was REALLY so meritorious and justifiable? If it made so much sense for the overall good, why does it need to take place behind closed doors? What are the implications of that?


Are Corporations REALLY "groups of people"? Sure, they CONTAIN people, but all those people are hardly voiceless. They have their individual ability to advocate positions just like any citizen, using their voice, their pocketbook, and their vote. Surely, if opening the forestry reserves is so good for Company Gidget, all the employees who work for Company Gidget will see that and go out and collectively advocate it. Why does Company Gidget its self need its own, separate, ADDITIONAL voice? A company is not a person. All the people the company contains are persons. Considering the company a separate, and equal entity with political power of its own is a dangerous concept. If I happen to be a rich man, how many of these separate entities am I allowed to create? How many extra voices and votes am I allowed to buy for myself?

I believe in 1 Person, 1 Voice, 1 Vote. Period.
I do not argue against money being a form of expression of free speech. On the contrary, it's possibly the most powerful expression of free speech. But allowing your money to buy you more influence than any other single person has over the political process is dangerous. What happens when the interests of 1 rich man and 3 poor men conflict? Who wins? If the answer is the 1 man wins over the 3, we do not live in a democratic society.

Additionally, Companies are inherently self-interested. They actually have to be, by law. Henry Ford was actually successfully sued by his stockholders because he raised the minimum wage of his workers for partly humanitarian reasons. The courts ruled that, while his ideas about a better society were nice, he had a legal obligation to maximize profits to the greatest extent permitted by lawful practices. His concept was that if his workers made enough money to be able to afford the cars they made, they would in turn care a great deal more about producing high quality workmanship, and while this idea turned out to be true, it was not enough at the time. Ford returned to paying the lower wage.

All this is great, economically. But if you suddenly allow a company, as it's own entity separate from the actual people composing it, to have a voice in politics, things get ugly. The Company does not care about what is good for the country overall. Or what is best for the wider system of networks. Or what is good for the American People. The company cares about extracting profit. By all means within the law. Using every trick available.
.There is a lot I'd like to say in response to that, I don't agree with much of it.  Unfortunately, I need to be quick, maybe I can expand on it later, anyhow...

 

There is little difference between someone putting a commercial out for public discourse or paying a PAC a huge sum of money which they in turn use to create the same commericals or run a "voter registration" drive or whatever.  Ultimately, it's money going to the politician.  You can not legislate one out of some nebulous notion of fairness, but then not the other.
 

Companies are merely a logical entity.  Companies have no interests, companies can not donate money, companies can not really do anything, because they are not real objects.  Everything a company does, is done at the behest of that company's leaders(people).  Board members, stock owners and other managers do those things.  On the flip side those people have legal responsibilities as well and can be held accountable for the actions of their company.  This also applies to "groups" like labor unions, the NRA etc etc. 
 

I could care less about the number of "voices" people have, that's a meaningless term.  It has never been equal, will never be equal, nor should it be.  People get one vote, but can they speak to as many people as they want or will grant them an audience.  Money helps get a bigger audience, which gives them more voices, there are other means to increase your influence as well (like celebrity status, not being an idiot etc), but money is one of the easiest (if you have it) and most effective.  This is true for private citizens and companies alike.
 

All the nonsense about smoke filled backrooms aside.  What difference does it make if Bill Gates donates his own millions to a congressman to buy his vote or get a bill authored instead of your ficticious company?  Maybe Bill owns a bunch of stock in your company and would love to see them be profitable to line his pockets even more.  Regardless, why single out the company but not the individual?

The first part of what you were saying was a lot about accountability.  I'm pretty sure that donations of more than a few hundred dollars do have to be documented, whether to a candidate or a PAC.  So I think that is covered currently and if not I have no problem with that requirement.  If congressmen don't do their due dilligence when voting on a bill, that's hardly related the source of the bill.  Though, it harkens back to government's size and some of the symptoms of that. 
 
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Hrobertgar » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:44 pm

Brekkie wrote:
2) Advance in science which will drive the economy of the future, but which has no profitable application today


Jabari wrote:
#2 should be private as I mentioned before - someone will figure out a profitable application if the research is worth doing.


I have to totally disagree here. Communications satelites - Governor moonbeam. Yes they were predicted by Arthur C. Clarke, but if not for moonbeam it might have been a while before we got one. Other Major science projects are comparable, as only a very few rich philanthorpists would fund pure research at all, let alone at a significant level, as the payout is too far off.
- think about fetal stem cell research. All Bush did was limit FEDERAL funds to a defined pre-existing group of cell lines, he did not prohibit the research itself nor did he prohibit private funds going to develop new lines. The cry from supporters was HUGE because they recognize that even guys like Soros are not going to pour money into this, and that the federal funding ban would effectively kill off the field. Yet now, 11-12 years later other doctors have figured out induced Pluri-Potent Stem Cells, and are working on harvesting less mature cells from a person to make better iPPS.

Think about energy too, if we ever get Fusion power (presumably from ITER) it will be due to government funding rather than industry.


edit: for typos
Last edited by Hrobertgar on Wed Mar 21, 2012 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Losing Free Speech?

Postby Fivelives » Wed Mar 21, 2012 3:20 pm

Jabari wrote:Science-types of things are going to be better handled by private companies with a profit motive in mind IMHO


If not for government-funded NASA, we wouldn't even have explored anything outside low earth orbit (where they put sattelites). We wouldn't have a lot of the things we take for granted today - NASA alone filed over 6,300 patents, not to mention the numerous projects they shoveled out to civilian companies for things they needed - including scratch-resistant lenses for glasses, insoles for shoes, the ball-point pen, water filters, smoke detectors, hell even cordless tools - and many more.

That's one example of where spending on research and the sciences helped stimulate our economy. I honestly feel that when the government closed down the majority of NASA, they made a HUGE misstep in many areas, not just scientific research that seems like it's not relevant to daily life at all.

So yes, the government should invest in scientific research.

Jabari wrote:Income tax is theft. Talk about "tax brackets" and such doesn't even register with me - the only allowable income tax bracket is 0.


I bet you drove to work today. You have electricity thanks to the government installing an infrastructure for delivering it to your door. Similarly, you took a shower this morning because the government put down water pipes. If not for taxes (of all sorts), you wouldn't have any of that - and much more that we take for granted. Sure, private for-profit companies could've done it all... except for the niggling little fact that they wouldn't have. It wouldn't have been profitable at all for the company installing them.

Americans live by the rule "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". It applies in so very many areas of everyday life, and is almost a creed when it comes to discussions involving the mistakes made by our government. The problem with that is this - none of our technological advancements since the industrial revolution have fixed something that was broken. It was all based on improving what already works. Iceboxes (what we used before refrigeration was practical on the small scale) still work. Telephones that plug into outlets on the wall still work. Vinyl records and record players? Yup, those still work too. Think about that next time you're talking on your cell phone, headed to check the fridge for your missing mp3 player (since so damn many things we think are "missing" somehow end up in the fridge. Enough so that it's always the first place I look for anything I'm missing that's small enough to fit in my hand).
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