Friday, July 24, 2009

Why it's dangerous to have the best government money can buy

I have been reading Frederick Grimke*, Considerations upon the Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions, when I came across this interesting passage:

"It is a great objection to a high property qualification [or in our day, the necessity for raising large amounts of campaign money] that it confines the competition for office to the rich exclusively. The rich only can afford to practice bribery, and hence the English elections [this was written in 1856] have been corrupt to a degree utterly unknown in the United States... In those countries where the eligibility to office as well as the electoral franchise have been most restricted, the greatest corruption and licentiousness have prevailed; and where both have been thrown open to nearly the whole population the elections are the most orderly and the most free of sinister influence."

* Frederick Grimke (1791-1863), a resident of Chillicothe, was a judge in the Ohio Supreme Court before retiring to write political philosophy. Considerations upon the Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions was his most important work. The 1968 and 2006 editions of his work are available online. The 1968 edition includes editorial notes that help the modern reader to understand references that would otherwise seem obscure.

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