Clipping Coupons for Democracy: An Egalitarian/Public Choice Defense of Campaign Finance Vouchers

Hasen, Richard L.
January 1996
California Law Review;Jan1996, Vol. 84 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
This Article proposes a market-based alternative to our current unpopular regime for financing federal election campaigns. Under the proposal, each voter receives vouchers for federal elections to contribute either to candidates directly or to interest groups; with limited exceptions, only funds from the voucher system could be spent to support or oppose candidate for elected federal offices. Using public choice theory, Professor Hasen argues that the voucher plan would promote an egalitarian political market in which each person has roughly equal political capital regardless of preexisting disparities in wealth, education, or organizational ability. After demonstrating that the current campaign finance regime favors wealthy and well-organized interests at the expense of the poor and those with diffuse interests, the author identifies four distinct benefits of the voucher proposal. First, the voucher proposal minimizes the role of wealth in the political process and facilitates the organization of those individuals who currently lack political capital. Second, the proposal is likely to promote a stable transition to a more egalitarian political order and a more chaotic, though fairer, legislative process. Third, the voucher proposal's market orientation registers the intensity of voter preferences well. Finally, the proposal has a realistic chance of being enacted and of passing constitutional muster. The author concludes by demonstrating the superiority of the voucher plan under the four criteria to non-voucher public financing of Congressional campaigns, proportional representation, and group-based political solutions.


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