With Barack Obama’s announcement today that he will not take public financing for his presidential bid — because “the system is broken,” as he said risibly, since what he meant was that he can raise lots more money than the $84 million he would receive from the government — Obama has done this nation a service. He has exposed the madness behind the notion of restricting the amount of money spent on political campaigns. If there is anything in our democracy that should not be subject to monetary restriction, it is political campaigning. Limits on fundraising are almost exactly equivalent to limits on free speech, since the money used in campaigns is used for the purpose of getting a candidate elected, one of the most basic acts of free speech there is.
And if you think the amount of money being spent on political campaigns this year (it will come in around $1.5 billion nationwide) is obscene, consider this: Last year, inside the 50 states, companies spent something like $5 billion marketing the sale of bottled water.