Unintended consequences

By Lorenzo

Over the years, various reforms have been introduced in attempts to make American politics be more democratic. For example, primary voting was introduced during the Progressive Era as a way of broadening popular participation in the election process by registered voters selecting their Party’s candidate. The unintended effect was to increase the expense of running for office, increasing the demand for political donations.

There have been a series of reforms and attempted reforms to regulate political donations. One mechanism has been to limit the size of donations; lots of small donations being held to be less susceptible to undue influence than fewer, larger donations.

Putting Presidents on the rubber chicken treadmill

This has also had unintended consequences (via).

The time spent by Presidents raking in all those small donations is escalating. Turning the US President into an ever greater prisoner of the fundraising circuit is perhaps not clever.

Which fundraiser is this again? 

This is also the Saturday chit-chat post. (Or, it will be, when comments are working again.)


  1. JC
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink


    Elections are expensive and you need to get your message across in highly complex markets and now through many different mediums, so it isn’t surprising they cost money and lots of it.

    This don’t mean that long odds candidates don’t make it to the top and actually win. Unfortunately, we have evidence of that with the present occupant in the White House having defeated the “inevitable” candidate. I wouldn’t be too fussed.

    Great piece in Reason magazine on the relationship of IQ and wealth. Which comes first is a bit of a surprise. It also should make people more optimistic that the world’s absolute poor can be helped and they can do a lot better.


    Also a good lesson for those finkelstinians among us. However I’m not exactly sure what lesson they would learn.

    The really interesting question is what is responsible for producing both wealth and higher IQs? One clue: Wealth and IQ correlate very nicely with the index of economic freedom. History teaches that economic freedom precedes the increase of both wealth and IQ. Even the data collected by Lynn and Vanhanen clearly show that when the dead hand of communism was lifted from Eastern Europe, both wealth and IQs began rising. Before the institutions of liberty arose in the late 18th century, every people and every nation lived in humanity’s natural state of poverty and ignorance. The bottom line is that liberty makes people richer and smarter.


  2. Posted August 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure how long for, but the blog is back on deck – thanks to Jacques and the Catallaxy crew for providing a general announcement, too.

    Second JC’s recommendation of that piece from reason, too. IIRC there is a piece linked in the paragraph JC has quoted that’s also excellent.

  3. Mel
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that Reason article is interesting. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Steve Sailer.

  4. Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Yes, sorry about the mess. I’ll be talking to the new provider on monday evening (they have phone support and I have 5c/minute international calls).

  5. kvd
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    The datum that Lynn and Vanhanen used for the lowest IQ estimate, Equatorial Guinea, was the mean IQ of a group of Spanish children in a home for the developmentally disabled in Spain.[48]

    From here, and yes I agree with Mel. Just wow…

  6. Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    A lot of IQ research is very shoddy. Not all of it, of course, but much of it. This has been known among Skeptics for a while, and indeed, one of the Edinburgh Skeptics is doing a talk on it as part of Skeptics on the Fringe. It’s nice to see his research (and that of others) getting wider prominence via reason:


  7. kvd
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Just a follow up. I think it’s worrying that an article attributed to a ‘psychologist’ and a ‘political scientist’ on the very vague subject of ‘IQ’ (which would have to be the most contentious measurement ever measured) would be given as much credence as it appears to have been given by anyone holding sceptical views without at least first checking the creds of the authors.

    This is not to suggest that they are not absolutely correct in their conclusions, and I have no particular expertise to provide any refutation. It all sounds possible and agreeable and comforting – but then so does “Land Down Under” after a couple of beers.

  8. Posted August 12, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    George Selgin has a classic critique of contemporary academic books here:


  9. Posted August 12, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I thought that was the intended consequence of the political financing reforms; that is to make the politicians dependant on a broader range of people to make it more difficult for small wealthy groups of people to influence the politician with money.

  10. kvd
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    [email protected] possibly the ‘other side’ of political fundraising is the hoped-for influence to be gained if your candidate is successful. And to a certain extent if this is the case, then it probably doesn’t much matter how effective the advertising spend actually is.

  11. Mel
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Was Ronald Reagan the father of modern Keynesianism?

  12. Posted August 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Just letting everyone know that I have a broken computer at present (and a temporary strong incentive not to get it fixed for a week or so, it is proving a distraction), so will not be around much. Sorry about that.

  13. JC
    Posted August 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    I thought that was the intended consequence of the political financing reforms; that is to make the politicians dependant on a broader range of people to make it more difficult for small wealthy groups of people to influence the politician with money.

    Bribery is illegal, Desi. Having said that I find the influence the unions have on the ALP disturbing. I don’t want to see the end of private donations supporting political parties and in fact I would encourage it. However I would be very pleased if the next Coalition government did a couple of things to improve the political process. Private firms or governments shouldn’t be used as a banking service for unions so it would be good to see members financed their membership themselves rather than having the funds deducted. I would also like to see members vote directly on political donations.

  14. Posted August 13, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    [email protected] The key issue is probably access; that someone who matters will take your calls.

  15. Posted August 13, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    JC, Clive Palmer seems to share your concern and thinks public financing is the key:

    Of the funding cuts to political parties, Mr Palmer said the government risked creating an “over reliance on funding from donors, unions, people like that”.

  16. JC
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Actually Desi, Fatty’s opinion is the opposite to mine. Public funding should be stopped immediately.

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