Apocalypse Averted

31 January 2010 at 7:15 pm 6 comments

| Dick Langlois |

In a recent post, I lamented the willingness of pundits (and dissenting Justices) to see rights as a consequential exercise: we should restrict the speech of group X, in this case private corporations, because allowing such speech would lead to a bad outcome, in this case the corruption of democracy by corporate interests. (Feel free to substitute here your own favorite candidate for silencing and your own associated bad outcome.) But, of course, those who argue in this manner must also demonstrate that the asserted bad outcome would actually happen. A recent article in the Times — bless some reporter’s or editor’s contrarian heart — asks the question: so, what effect does corporate money actually have on democracy?” The answer seems to be: none at all. One of the economists cited is Peter’s Missouri colleague, and my former student, Jeff Milyo: “There is just no good evidence that campaign finance laws have any effect on actual corruption.”

And while we are at it, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds no effect of cell phone laws on traffic accidents. This hasn’t stopped Connecticut’s Governor from calling for even stricter cell phone laws.

Entry filed under: - Langlois -, Law and Economics, Myths and Realities, Public Policy / Political Economy. Tags: .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. David Chen  |  31 January 2010 at 7:30 pm

    There is just no good evidence that campaign finance laws have any effect on actual corruption.
    Because if it’s deemed constitutional, it isn’t corruption anymore.

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  1 February 2010 at 9:48 am

    Speaking of cell-phone bans, and the coming wave of prohibitions on texting while driving: There have been several recent cases of people convicted of drunk driving for merely being inside a vehicle while intoxicated, even if the vehicle was parked. In one case the engine was off, the keys were on the console, and the car was in a parking space in front of the guy’s apartment. The court’s argument was that the driver could have operated the vehicle, in the future, and that was enough for conviction. A future crime, as in Minority Report. By this logic, I wonder if merely having a cell phone or texting device in one’s car will be grounds for arrest?

  • 3. Per Bylund  |  1 February 2010 at 11:26 am

    Just having the title to an automobile in one’s name and a cell phone plan should be enough, shouldn’t it?

  • 4. Dick Langlois  |  1 February 2010 at 11:38 am

    Peter — By “Minority Report” did you mean Tom Cruise or Ginsburg-Breyer-Sotomayor-Stevens?

  • 5. Peter Klein  |  1 February 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Great, now I have an image of the four justices, clad in black robes, rappelling out of one of those hovercraft thingies from the movie.

  • 6. David Smith  |  2 February 2010 at 9:12 pm

    The claims that now US elections will be subverted by money from foreign corporate interests is a hysterical one. This is already banned under provisions of election law left in place by the Supremes.

    I’m pleased with the decision, as you seem to be, without reservations, Dick.

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