"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." (Thomas Jefferson)
by Barbara Howe
Chair, Libertarian Party of North Carolina
The "voter owned elections" bills currently circulating in the General Assembly will do nothing to end corruption in government. Like most legislation, the title belies the real intent. Rather than insure voter ownership of elections, the bills will strengthen the grip of the Democrat-Republican duopoly that controls our state government.
No doubt many sponsors of these bills are sincere in their desire to end corruption. They're well meaning -- but misguided. In their quest to legislate morality, they entirely miss the real problem.
The problem is not the abuse of power; it is the power to abuse.
Government regulates every part of our economic, social, and personal life. It regulates the amount of water in our toilets, dictates what we can do on our own property or in our own homes, and bestows millions of “incentives” paid for with taxpayer’s dollars on huge companies like Dell, Google, and major league sports stadiums.
Now they want to add politicians to the list of those who feed at the taxpayer's trough.
Why are we surprised when groups of people realize that since government controls everything, they must organize to get something done and bend the rules -- or the rule makers -- to their side?
Government is no longer about protecting the life, liberty, and property of each person, it's about “what’s in it for me.”
Our forefathers understood power corrupts. They also understood that, while you cannot avoid corruption so long as you have government, you can limit it and mitigate its harm if you bind it "from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Unfortunately, Democrat and Republican politicians consider any constitution a minor speed bump on their road to creating a "fair and just" society, at least, their vision of a fair and just society as revealed to them by special interest groups.
"Voter-owned" election bills may be unconstitutional. They probably will be ineffective; we've seen many examples of politicians, unions, businesses, and the well-connected finding loopholes in any law.
The most egregious consequence of taxpayer-funded elections is that they further restrict freedom of speech and place added burdens on independent and third party candidates. General Assembly races are already so stacked in favor of the duopoly that nearly half of the seats went unchallenged in the last three elections.
If Democrats and Republicans truly want "voter-owned" elections, they can begin by reducing their power and tearing down the barriers they've imposed on independent and third party candidates.
All candidates should be held to the same requirements. The people should have easy access to state their will to the government through as many democratic methods as possible, including, but not limited to, initiative, referendum, recall, proportional representation, and write-in votes.
The right to freedom of expression must include the unrestricted right to pay for dissemination of one's opinion. When the government controls the funding of campaigns, it controls the campaigns themselves, and thus the elections.
Rather than letting government control the finances of candidates, end all limits on a person's right to support the candidate of his choice.
Take away the oxygen, and the fire will die. If you reduce government power and restore the concept of limited government our nation was founded on, you eliminate the opportunity for corruption.
Editor's Note: Howe is chair of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina. She was the party's candidate for governor in 2000 and 2004. She devoted much of her adult life to three important causes: home schooling, volunteering with La Leche League, and working for liberty. She lives in Oxford