Some people say businesses often do unethical things, so we need more business regulations. Others look at the immoral personal behavior of their fellow Missourians and limit civil liberties in order to protect people from themselves.

On your ballot next week, there are two separate attempts to regulate some aspects of the election process. Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2 aims at crooked political financiers by limiting campaign contributions, while Amendment 6 would set a framework for voter ID laws in an attempt to reduce voter fraud.

Amendment 2 — campaign finance limits

Amendment 2 promises to remove big money donors from having undue influence on political campaigns. It also promises accountability and transparency, all nice sounding things.

But such laws, alas, prove futile. I feel sorry for folks who think passing Amendment 2 will really forever sideline the likes of Rex Sinquefield or George Soros from participating so greatly in political funding.

The former, under a past campaign finance regime, made a mockery of such naive rules by openly setting up dozens of individual PACs, and funded each to the limit. The latter makes a mockery of transparency, as he has so many international syndicates, there is no way to tell what’s coming from him or the man in the moon.

I actually agree with Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson when she nobly considered the thousands of dollars spent on her own re-election campaign and lamented what good those resources could have done for, say, the less fortunate, instead.

But just passing laws requiring more elaborate and restrictive financial constraints is aiming at the wrong target. Political commentator P.J. O’Rourke fundamentally observes, “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”

Therefore, is it no wonder that during the last century of the Progressive era, which seeks an ever-increasing government role in all aspects of society, that special interests of all sorts now seek to have their say in how to run the collective? Is it not simply a logical conclusion to see our capitols become quagmires where socialists and corporatists, religionists and libertines all fight it out seeking to control society to their advantage — by force of law and regulation? All factions, therefore, seek to get their person into office.

O’Rourke was also correct when he said, “giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Deadly, and expensive.

Instead, maintain constitutional limits on what those legislators can do in the first place, and the campaign money will naturally dry up. But that ain’t on the table, is it?

Also, what contempt campaign finance limit advocates must have for democracy itself. The general assumptions are that money buys advertisements, and that the average voters must be dopes —  if he or she sees enough of these crappy half-truth ads floating around before elections and are mesmerized into voting for the candidate with the loudest voice. Campaign finance limits mean we distrust the competency of voters.

Amendment 6 — voter ID

Amendment 6 is the latest attempt to require voters to properly identify themselves, because some are crooks.

The Missourian’s VOX Magazine had very informative feature on the several different kinds of possible voter fraud. Amendment 6 addresses just a certain kind: voter impersonation.

Advocates point out dead people who have voted and the common sense tenet that anybody who’s anybody already has an ID in order to exist in modern society; so what’s the big deal?

Opponents to voter ID measures holler about how over 200,000 people would be put out, even though such voter ID laws could provide IDs to people absolutely free.

Amendment 6 might do some good, but I’m not sure how much. Some voters might be confused or have to do something to vote, but I’m not sure how many honest folks it would really turn away come election day.

All this polarized rhetoric reminds me of right-to-work proposals. Proponents talk them up like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, and would cause jobs to fall from the sky. Opponents fear labor union calamity, concluding with bumper sticker philosophy that “Right to Work is a Rip Off.” Either way, a whole ton of political capital is expended across the board on an issue that really wouldn’t do a whole lot.

Are Republican voter ID advocates conspiring to keep some stereotypical Democratic voters from the polls? Do Democrats railing against voter ID care about preventing any sort of voter fraud at all, like: dead people voting, or alive people voting in multiple jurisdictions, or that electronic voting machines could be misprogrammed or hacked?

Both measures are politically divisive, so it’s likely that you, dear reader, have already made up your mind on both.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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