Funding Political Parties

Every time there is any suggestion of scandal relating to fundraising by political parties, commentators suggest that the answer is for the parties to be funded by the taxpayer. There are at least four good arguments against this:
  1. Politicians are a bunch of well-paid, self-serving egomaniacs. If they think their party is short of money they should stump up the cash themselves.
  2. Spending large sums of money on election campaigns does nothing to inform the public better. It is simply a form of advertising. The party with the best advertising campaign wins and the quality of the advertising campaign has little to do with how expensive it was or how good the party’s policies are.
  3. Where do you draw the line? The British National Party has, probably, the fifth largest share of the vote but it would surely be extremely obnoxious for the taxpayer to be obliged to fund its extremist campaigns.
  4. There is always a glimmer of hope that someone will create a new, more intelligent and more honest party. If this party, with no previous share of the vote, did not receive state funding, it would be at even more of a disadvantage than a new party would have been in the past.

Incidentally, another daft idea favoured by some is compelling people to vote. In some countries (including, I believe, Australia), any eligible voter who fails to vote is fined. If someone chooses not to vote it is because (i) they are unable to (through ill health, pressure of business or what-have-you), (ii) they don’t care, or (iii) they think there is nothing to choose between the candidates. Fining people for their inability to vote is clearly wrong. If voters don’t care or cannot choose between the candidates, forcing them to vote will force them to vote for someone they don’t want to vote for. It is entirely possible that they will choose someone because, say, he or she is the first name on the list. Such a vote will distort the electoral process and is therefore anti-democratic. The only reason for such legislation is to save politicians the embarrassment of a low turn-out.
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