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Free Speech vs. McCain and Company

Yaron Brook, director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has a timely and important op-ed in today’s Forbes.com titled “War On Free Political Speech,” in which he answers common arguments for campaign finance restrictions. Here are the opening paragraphs:

This presidential campaign will be, by far, the most expensive in U.S. history. And it is ironic that John McCain, the co-author of McCain-Feingold, is one of the candidates hustling to raise tens of millions of dollars. One thing is for sure: No matter who wins, the call for more campaign finance legislation will intensify–all in the name of combating the allegedly corrupting influence of money on politics. This is ominous, because what campaign finance restrictions actually do is subject political speech to the corrupting influence of government control.

Under current law, we are severely limited in how much we can donate to candidates, political parties and political committees. We are also subject to bans on radio and TV ads that might–crime of crimes–impact the victory or defeat of a candidate we favor or oppose. What justifies these restrictions on our freedom?

Without them, advocates say, the wealthy would control political speech. They would use their vast resources to promote their candidates while locking out those unable to run expensive ads. Americans would be left without access to the information necessary to make informed political decisions. Elected politicians would be beholden to rich financial backers, whom they’ll have to pay off with special favors. The solution to this mess, the argument goes, is obvious: The government must “level the playing field” by limiting wealthy Americans’ ability to use their money in the political debate.

But let us, as Ayn Rand so often advised, check our premises.

Read it all—and email it to your friends and associates. This is one of the most important political issues facing America today. How important is it? Freedom of speech is the defining characteristic of a society in which political change can occur peacefully.

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