Freedom Of Speech: How Quaint
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2010-01-22 09:32 by Karl Denninger
in Politics , 362 references Ignore this thread
Freedom Of Speech: How Quaint *
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I'm probably going to draw a lot of fire for this, but I believe the US Supreme Court made the right decision yesterday:

WASHINGTONA divided Supreme Court struck down decades-old limits on corporate political expenditures, potentially reshaping the 2010 election landscape by permitting businesses and unions to spend freely on commercials for or against candidates.

President Barack Obama attacked the ruling and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics," particularly "big oil, Wall Street banks, health-insurance companies and the other powerful interests" that "drown out the voices of everyday Americans." He pledged to work with lawmakers to craft a "forceful response."

What sort of "forceful response" might that be?  The use of force (that is, the government's stash of guns), right?  "Do as we say, or we (maybe literally) shoot you!"


Let me make my viewpoint clear on this, lest a whole swarm of lemmings start trying to put words in my mouth:

  • "Congress shall make no law.... or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" - This is very clear.  Laws restricting speech are unconstitutional.  Period.

  • Money is not speech.  However, money buys amplifiers in all of their forms.  If you stand on a street corner and talk, people within 10 feet can hear you.  If you buy a $2 megaphone people within 30 feet - in front of you - can hear you.  If you buy a $100 powered megaphone, people can hear you to a range of perhaps 100'.

  • So long as I don't drown out other people's ability to speak and be heard I should be able to buy and use as big an amplifier as I would like (and can afford.)  This is the old libertarian (little "L") principle: I can swing my arms around all I want so long as my fist does not connect with your nose.

As a consequence if you honor the black-letter law as expressed in The First Amendment, you are led to the inescapable conclusion that The US Supreme Court came to the correct decision - whether it is personally distasteful or not.

The true test of whether you believe in liberties and rights is not whether you support them when they coincide with what you'd like to see happen - it is whether you support them when they are adverse to what you would prefer.

But with that said, I do believe there is a serious problem with campaigns and politicians - and corruption thereof.

And here, I have a solution.

Public employees - that is, politicians - should not be able to receive a campaign donation (in any form) from anyone except an actual constituent - that is, someone who is qualified and registered to vote in their district or state.

Let the corporations (and individuals), along with PACs, Unions and others buy all the issue and even candidate ads they want - so long as they honestly identify who is funding the speech in question.

But bar all public employees from receiving any campaign contribution from anyone other than a natural person who is registered to vote in the area represented by that particular politician, with violators subject to felony prosecution.  If such an act is traced to a corporation the firm's charter is revoked.

Isn't it funny how we never address the actual problem - the fact that candidates have huge war chests funded by corporations (directly and indirectly) and instead try to focus on trying to restrict people's desire to speak - a right that is guaranteed under our Constitution?

Solve the problem instead of allowing politicians to play Kabuki Theater with this (very legitimate) issue.

Go to responses (registration required to post)

Comments on Freedom Of Speech: How Quaint
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Intelsys 178 posts, incept 2007-11-29

Absolutely on the mark KD. The original SOTUS decision not only effected corporations, it also tried to silence the little guy, people like me who financially support AOPA, NRA, FRC, etc. with the intent that my voice will be better heard when part of a larger group.

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -- Thomas Jefferson
Lordhumongous 4k posts, incept 2008-09-29

I agree 100% with respect to the first amendment. The only problem Karl is that corporate shareholders already have full individual rights. If a corporation wants to make a political statement they should send a letter to their shareholders and ask them to make it on their behalf.

Corporations with political rights devalue individual sovereignty. This is why no one in DC gives a flying fuck about what the individual thinks.... unless they have "corporate" quantities of cash. Gresham's law applied to politics.
Lordhumongous 4k posts, incept 2008-09-29

Not only does incorporation allow citizen shareholders to multiply their votes, it grants 100% FOREIGN OWNED artificial citizens political rights as well.

Ads215 7k posts, incept 2007-11-03

Karl, I could support your idea, but because I have zero faith in politicians agreeing to taking corporate money out of their coffers I only see negative outcomes due to this ruling.

I said I would leave TF if you agreed with the ruling. However, you agreed with it in a way that while thoroughly unexpected does makes sense.

Curious to see if the Tesla's, El's, Bixby's, etc get behind your idea or not.

I will be passing this along to the usual mailing lists and encourage everyone to do the same. Who knows, maybe hell COULD freeze over.

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do - Voltaire

Madashel 1k posts, incept 2007-09-14

Very good ticker gen...I knew you would come along soon enough and clarify the issue. I like the proposals you make allowing only constituents to donate. I also like the stipulation that any pol caught taking money outside this faces instant prosecution. Of course the only prob with this is who is going to put them in jail? Under the current environment all of our logic matters not when the system itself is being used and abused like it is now. The current laws are being ignored so any new law would be likely treated the same way.

It's up to us to either force them to enforce the law or take the law into our own hands. The former is the best option maybe we can vote people in who will do the peoples' bidding. The latter is the least desirable option, but one that would be swift and unmerciful. I prefer the former, but am preparing myself the best I can for the latter in case it comes to pass. I guess there is a 3rd option which is to do very little like we as a collective are currently doing and keep taking it with no lube as a post in another thread suggested yesterday. I like that option the least.

I know not what others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death. - Patrick Henry
Tickerguy 202k posts, incept 2007-06-26

Not only does incorporation allow citizen shareholders to multiply their votes, it grants 100% FOREIGN OWNED artificial citizens political rights as well.

No it doesn't. A corporation gets NO vote at the polls.

Speech is not a vote.

"Perhaps you can keep things together and advance playing DIE games.
Or perhaps the truth is that white men w/IQs >= 115 or so built all of it and without us it will collapse."
Rvacha 8k posts, incept 2008-10-03

I agree fully. SCOTUS made the right decision here. Most all decisions come with consequences but I'd rather deal with the consequences of having made the right decision.

"I suggest you panic." - Hugh Hendry
Uppity_peasant 4k posts, incept 2009-06-26

From the Ticker: President Barack Obama attacked the ruling and said it gave "a green light to a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics..."

I see that the Chicago Virgin (aka The Hypocrite-In-Chief) has weighed in.

How're Tony Rezko & King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, doing these days, Barack?

Barack Obama, the ONLY Chicago politician to emerge from the foetid turd swamp of Chicago corruption pristine & shining - thus, "The Chicago Virgin".

If it's true that "assault weapons" are "weapons of war" and don't belong on the streets of America, why do the police need them? Who are the police at war with?
Arw 317 posts, incept 2009-03-02

humongous x10

Wis/min 5k posts, incept 2009-08-14

Way to go KD.

I have to admit to some dismay over the reaction on the forum in other threads.

While I somewhat understand the desire to hate all things big business we should never desire to willingly destroy one of the primary rights we have in this country.

The simple solution is to mandate 100% disclosure of where all contributions originate.

Only then can the voter make a decision on how his vote might be influenced.

Rantocanada 81 posts, incept 2009-12-06


Exactly. If you are foreign regestered, for tax purposes or whatever, you should have NO voice. Actually, all the multi-nationals lobby not to benefit American interests, but rather global interests, which may not necessarily benefit--or might even harm--Mainstreet's interests.

The Truth is right here... err, wait. Well, it WAS there just moments ago!
Cursive 15 posts, incept 2009-12-25

"I'm probably going to draw a lot of fire for this..."

Gen, I understand your point, but disagree. Before I get into the details of my disagreement, I'll cite the structure of our government as an example. The U.S. is not a pure democracy, it's a representative democracy. We have intermediaries (representatives and senators) that function on our behalf. Furthermore, our Founding Fathers used several compromises to arrive at the bicameral nature of the Congress. This is also the example of the electoral college, which Al Gore supporters were so upset about. Would we want the populace of LA and NY deciding who would govern this great nation? Or, better yet, would we want rampant voter fraud in NY or LA deciding who would govern this great nation?

So, it is not against our liberties to put some restrictions on the practice of a pure democracy in an effort to keep the very liberties that we cherish. Ordinary Americans would rather ignore politics, and who can blame them? Politicians run on conservative values and govern like plutocrats. Our government has grown so large, the political class has become so corrupted, and the FRB has siphoned off so much wealth from the middle class, that it is expecting a lot to think that our republic could withstand the large monied interests of a few plutocrats that conspire with politicians to oppress the citizenry.

A final point is that our election laws rightly forbid foreign contributions to our campaigns. What happens if a.) foreign nationals are the controlling interest in these "American" corporations or b.) if the "American" corporation is so beholden to overseas profits that it's interests are effectively more aligned with foreign countries or, at the very least, the interests of the "American" corporation are widely divergent from the national interest. Frankly, I believe that scenario b is already upon us. No, I'd rather ban ALL corporate contributions. The fact is that these monies are siphoned from the common man's paycheck and are distributed by a corporate elite, be they banking interests, oil and gas interests or labor interests.
Tickerguy 202k posts, incept 2007-06-26

Cursive, speech is not a contribution.

I agree with you - there should be no contributions allowed to a politician except by a registered voter in their represented area.

But speech is not a vote, and is not a campaign contribution. It is speech and we have a Constitution that claims to respect a natural right to freedom of expression.

Either you believe in that natural right or you do not. There is no middle ground.

"Perhaps you can keep things together and advance playing DIE games.
Or perhaps the truth is that white men w/IQs >= 115 or so built all of it and without us it will collapse."
Fugitivekind 801 posts, incept 2007-08-20

Thanks for stating my view.

"I refuse to leave our children with a debt they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."
Barack Obama, Feb. 29
Wis/min 5k posts, incept 2009-08-14

Cursive said:
No, I'd rather ban ALL corporate contributions.
and what about union contributions and any other special interest group?

If the voting public knows where every dollar comes from he can make his own decisions.

Dashingdwl 9k posts, incept 2007-06-26


When you are hard and disciplined, you can be principled. People fear you because they have no leverage against you. It's the truest form of Liberty.
Wisc-xc 5k posts, incept 2007-07-14

It wouldn't make a damn bit of difference what corporations spent regarding political speech if not for the standardized, dumbed down, docile sheeple our government school monopoly spews out. Reasonable people can argue about the merits of this decision and the effects thereof (I think the effects will be minimal) but until we get a critical mass of non brain dead, easily led by the nose citizens, the dead end trajectory we as a people are on isn't going to change in the least.
Rantocanada 81 posts, incept 2009-12-06

And with all those companies incorporated in Deleware, well, that would pretty much relegate corporate influence to [insert you term equating to nothing].

The Truth is right here... err, wait. Well, it WAS there just moments ago!
Widgeon 13k posts, incept 2007-08-30

The "issue" I have w/ the 'buying an amplifier' analogy is that corporations and the like aren't actually speaking ... people speak. Further, the 'officers' of the corporation aren't the corporation ... stock holders are the owners so the officers aren't 'speaking' for the corporation either; they are merely custodians in their positions. Further, it isn't strictly a "free choice" or "freedom" to hire others to do your bidding (PR, advertising, etc.). It is, in my humble opinion, clearly coercion.

I understand that this whole mess is a terrible situation ... but signing even more contracts w/ the Devil isn't "the answer." We've got to go back to fundamentals on this too ... the 100+ year old SC "precedent" determining the corporations are people and the several decades old ruling that money is speech must be overturned.

I see the thinking on the other side of the equation; I just think it's Dead Wrong.

There, I've said My Piece.
Briar 6k posts, incept 2008-02-07

KD, isn't your proposal easily gamed? What's to prevent a candidate and corporation agreeing, "ok, Corp will shell out 50 million to finance media ads and candidate will use voter donations to print some pamphlets, and oh by the way, corporation expects candidate to vote for X"? So the money isn't given to the candidate. So what? The candidate is still selling his votes in exchange for corporate money. Even if they don't actually agree to do this, the candidate is going to know that he got elected because a specific corp, corps, or industry put up the money to get him elected so he'd better vote their way.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
Zzt 3k posts, incept 2007-06-26

You may take a lot of flack from some people but not from me. Once again you are correct. It is especially true when you said " Isn't it funny how we never address the actual problem ". Yup, on issue after issue.
Wis/min 5k posts, incept 2009-08-14

The whole system is currently "gamed" favoring the incumbent.

As long as full disclosure is mandated, this ruling gives an opportunity to clean out the cesspool.
Tickerguy 202k posts, incept 2007-06-26

Briar, the fact of the matter is that you either respect freedom of speech or you do not.

There is no middle ground on this. Natural rights are not bestowed - you have them as a consequence of being alive. Governments can only RESPECT (or not) those rights, they can't create them.

"Perhaps you can keep things together and advance playing DIE games.
Or perhaps the truth is that white men w/IQs >= 115 or so built all of it and without us it will collapse."
Pauperbear 1k posts, incept 2008-01-22

KD, I disagree-here is why:
We already have a congress that is largely bought and paid for by specific interests. Yesterdays decision ratifies that reality. Incorporation does not confer the rights of citizenship upon the incorporated. Thus, the enumerated rights laid out in the Constitution as sacrosanct do not apply to corporate interest. This same logic should apply to Unions, the AARP and any other specific group. If Jeffrey Immelt wants to spend 10MM of his own cash to do issue or candidate that favor GE ads fine. But don't use the tax code to lobby as a corporation and then write off the expense. The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is sacrosanct right but it applies to our citizens not legal entities.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.
Winston Churchill
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