Thursday, 3 April 2014

Who said freedom was free?

Two lines in West Side Story have to be among the best in any musical:

Everything free in America
For a small fee in America

Smart insights, not just memorable songs
So acute, so witty. Though perhaps not entirely accurate: there’s nothing small about the fee. In fact, yesterday a Supreme Court judgement ensured that US freedom commanded an impressive price. Citizens can now enjoy the best freedom money can buy.

Not all citizens, of course. Only the ones who can afford it but, hey, that’s the way things are. Porsche and Dior aren’t available to just anyone, but I’m sure that the knowledge that some people can buy them has to be a comfort to everyone else. When you’re sleeping rough and scrabbling through restaurant bins, it must give you a little joy to know that some people at least can stay at the Hilton and dine out in the best places.

It’s the same with freedom. Ordinary citizens who can’t afford it for themselves should at least take pleasure in the fact that the upstanding individuals who can, are now entitled to buy as much as they want.

The Supreme Court decision means that, while the amount payable to any one candidate by any one individual remains limited, the aggregate amount they can contribute in any two-year election cycle has now been lifted. The man who brought the case, Shaun McCutcheon, is already close to the old limit, $123,200, small change to the people who want to buy themselves some essential freedom.

After all, it’s not a lot more than twice the median income in the US. Investing only the equivalent of two average people’s livelihood for a year might be regarded as small change in truly free circles. Practically the behaviour of a cheapskate.

But fortunately the fetters have been burst. From now on, men like McCutcheon can buy as much freedom as they want, or at least can afford. And will he take advantage of the opportunity?

“Oh, absolutely,” Huffington Post quoted him saying, “yeah, I'm well on the way to meeting [the old limits] already, so certainly I will now. Absolutely.”

A blow for freedom. People must be entitled to spend their money as they wish. And in a nation where lobbies and the super-wealthy had nothing like the influence on the political process that they would like, a great step forward has been taken in realising their ambitions.

The US Supreme Court that struck the blow for freedom.
Though only 5-4.
Against, back row: Sonia Sotomayor (left);
Stephen Bryer (second from left);Elena Kagan, (right)
Front row: 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (right)
All the women were against


Faith A. Colburn said...

It's hard to keep from getting discouraged. Actually from giving up. Guess I'll work extra hard to try to get those two great candidates I mentioned elected. See if we can defeat the money. We did before. That's how we got campaign finance limits in the first place.

David Beeson said...

The pendulum's swinging hard in the wrong direction at the moment, isn't it? It's got to swing back some time...