You are probably aware that the Microsoft Antitrust case has been settled.
Right at the start, I'll say that I am disappointed in the ruling. I'm not entirely on the side of those who see Microsoft as evil incarnate, but I do think that their corporate behavior is dangerous and needs reining in. There's just too much power there, and not enough morality.
What I'm concerned here is the appearance that Microsoft "bought" this settlement. The important word here is "appearance", because I don't think that is actually what happened. However, it is true that Microsoft never put a dime into political contributions until the Justice Department brought this suit. It isn't pretty that they suddenly start contributing money when they are in trouble and end up getting off pretty lightly at the end. Was it because of contributions? Well, I don't think that our politicians and judges are outright corrupt, or even that they are too stupid to see what Microsoft is really up to. But I do think that money and power can't help but influence these things. I doubt that you can outright "buy" many (or any) politicians, but I do think that large funding makes any politician think harder about how they might be able to help you.
That's why I wish we could have a major change in our political system: no donations to specific candidates or even specific parties: just money into a big pool that everyone who meets the requirements to be on a ballot would draw from.
This would not entirely eliminate influence, but it would cut it down a lot. Microsoft could still donate whatever they want; it would just be divided up between ALL the political candidates. No politician would ever feel that they owed anything to anyone except gratitude for helping voters get information from ALL sides.
My idea is that this would be voluntary: any person or company could contribute as much as they want to the pool- billions of dollars if they so desire. The pool would also be where candidates own money would have to go: you shouldn't be able to buy an election just because you are personally wealthy. Probably the pool would be divided into sections you could earmark your money for- the Presidential race, the Senate, RI's primary, etc.
Why would someone contribute if they can't help their particular choice? Because they WOULD be helping; they'd just be helping every other candidate too. You might think that's unfair because you don't want your money helping to promote ideas you don't like. But, shouldn't we get to hear from every candidate? Why should money be able to buy a stronger voice? It shouldn't - entrenched power shouldn't have any stronger voice than the outside dissidents.
We are, after all, a nation that supposedly believes in freedom and equality. There is no place that freedom and equality are more important than in the realm of politics. All reasonable ideas need to be heard. What decides what is reasonable in this context? We certainly don't need to fund the political aspirations of kooks, but there is a simple solution for that.
The distribution of the pool would be in equal proportion to qualified candidates - people who met the requirements to be on the ballot. If there were five people on the ballot, the pool would be split five ways and so on. This eliminates true nutcases from sharing funding- they'll never get the signatures to get on the ballot. But when there are real minority issues that need to be heard, those people will share in the pool and will be able to make their ideas heard. There are, of course, plenty of difficult details to work out, but it definitely could be done.
I think this simple idea would go a long way to cleaning up politics in general. The political parties could and would still have their fund raisers- they'd just have to share the bounty. It would still be to their advantage to raise as much money as they could. You might look at this as a tax on their fund raising.
Obviously it doesn't solve every problem of money, power and politics. But I think it would clean up a lot. Obviously there are implementation difficulties, and you'd never be able to make it completely fair and equitable, but I think it could be a big improvement over what we have today.
It's November 5th, election day. I'll be voting later on today, which is probably why I'm thinking about this kind of thing. I'd like to know your opinion on this; the good, the bad, why it can't work, why it won't help or why it can and it would. I think most of us agree that something needs to change.
Got something to add? Send me email.
More Articles by Tony Lawrence © 2011-05-03 Tony Lawrence