Concepts of Equality in British Election Financing Reform Proposals

June 2002
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies;Jun2002, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p253
Academic Journal
This article discusses the ways in which the ambiguous concept of equality has been used in the British debate regarding the financing of political election campaigns. It identifies three concepts of equality commonly used in that debate: ‘equality of arms’ between political parties, ‘equality of influence’ between citizens, and ‘equality of access’ to the so‐called ‘marketplace of ideas’. The article than discusses each of these concepts of equality in greater detail, and, in doing so, identifies four broader principles underlying the use of these concepts in the election financing debate. The article concludes that, although the language of equality is used often and with great effect in the election financing debate, the concepts of equality being invoked are rarely independently valuable concepts. Instead, the concepts of equality used are valued in the election financing debate because they promote one of the four underlying principles. These principles themselves, however, involve complex questions of democracy and distributional fairness, and are not uncontroversial. I thus suggest that future debates regarding election financing could be enhanced by a more direct discussion of the merits of these underlying principles.


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