Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Supreme Court ruling: Do we really trust corporations more than elected officials?

Christian Science Monitor commentary "Supreme Court ruling: Do we really trust corporations more than elected officials?" (January 22nd, 2010) contains two troublesome ideas. First, while describing a corporation's political messages as worthless, the article neglects to observe information effects that may balance incentive issues. In addition, the article assumes public choice incentives are aligned properly.

But if we cannot identify low-value speech, can we at least identify low-value speakers? Corporations would seem to be pretty obvious candidates. One thing we should be able to agree on is that speech will generally seek to promote the interests of the speaker. That’s fine if the speaker is a person; the government should respond to the interests of the people.

Corporations also know more than third parties the intricacies and costs within the industry. To silence corporations would be to lose information. The claim that a political action committee with a regulatory agenda is better for a citizen base as a whole than a corporation which seeks to maximize profits is, in most cases, ludicrous.

The Supreme Court has told us that we should trust corporations more than our elected officials. Right or wrong, it is a sad comment on our democracy.

Corporations certainly may have their incentives aligned better than politicians to serve customers--for an understatement, as Milton Friedman once surmised, "everything the government does, private enterprise can do for half the cost."

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