So far, I have talked almost entirely in the ideal sense. I have considered a world where politicians follow the will of the people to a tee and where companies work on one rule: Make more money. Living in the real world, though, I realize this isn’t always fair. Sometimes, the people in charge of businesses do act out of care and compassion; after all, they are run by people. And most of the time, of course, politicians suck.
It seems like corruption is more popular than honesty in politics these days, but perhaps that is just general disillusionment. There have been many incidences of money in politics, influencing decisions like those on net neutrality, gun control and the environment. This isn’t to say that lobbying is inherently evil — it makes sure important issues get the attention they deserve — but it seems clear that it has clouded the democratic process.
To be completely transparent, I am talking from self-interest. Let me be clear: Money in politics disproportionately hurts the viability of economic left and even centrist policies. If a perspective or candidate is not popular among the affluent, then it is more likely to get shot down in the rat race of the current political landscape. The current system of private-public relations self-propagates, and this is not a good thing.
So, in order to create a more just world, we must ask ourselves how we should handle the issue of money in politics, from campaign financing to lobbying. How can we make the real world most closely model the ideal world?
The facile answer is to just get money out by any means necessary. Repeal Citizens United, ban all forms of lobbying and make politicians public servants again. While I don’t want to judge this for being near-impossible to do, I do want to say that this isn’t necessarily the right option either. As said before, every group, every interest wants to be heard, and there’s simply not enough time in the day to arbitrate on every issue. There must be some hierarchy of importance, and money is one way to do this.
Yes, population could be used, but then we’re stuck with all sorts of gaming issues and questions of scale. Just because more people are actively bothered by a problem does not necessarily make it the more important one to solve first. Money is not actually a terrible way of dealing with this issue, as it theoretically allows for people to put in more if they are more invested in the issue. This is how grassroots campaigns and non-profit fundraisers are supposed to work.
The problem is, the system that this all works in concert with is not fair. The distribution of wealth does not even remotely match the distribution of the population. This is why big companies and wealthy entrepreneurs are able to push for policies that aren’t really in the general public will. Wealth inequality is so high — and the political lobbying system is so blatantly broken — that the average person feels like they have no power over the government. This is a problem.
So, in order to fix the political problems, we need to fix greater socioeconomic and social issues. It’s all related directly. This isn’t even getting into issues related to propagandizing or transparency concerns; this is at a basic level.
As for how to implement this, that is much less clear. Technology is likely part of the answer — why are we still using archaic systems like the electoral college when we can work towards models and means that more closely resemble a direct democracy? But one thing is for sure: Political change must occur, and it must go hand-in-hand with greater societal fixes.
Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.